A classic cocktail by any definition with enough variations and themes to be one of the progenetors of all cocktails and martinis. Various sources list the beginnings of the Manhattan in the late 1860′s as a drink made with Rye whiskey, Italian vermouth and bitters. This combination has seemed to have stuck through the last 150 years, with the only popular variations being the use of Bourbon or Canadian Whisky instead of Rye.
We have created our Bistro Manhattan by balancing the flavors of a smooth Kentucky bourbon, I use 1792 Ridgemont Reserve, with a great Italian vermouth, and orange bitters. The 1792 bourbon pairs well with the solid, yet smooth and complex Carpano Punt e Mes vermouth. The Regans orange bitters that I use give a nice background softness to the drink, yet are not so subtle as to get lost in the dark vermouth and aged bourbon.
Recently a guest gave me a bottle of the Carpano “Antiqua Formula” vermouth to use for his Manhattans. Wow, I have a hard time not just drinking it all, just poured on the rocks. It is a complex, slightly bitter Italian vermouth with a refined character and layers of flavor. It is the original recipe created by the Carpano family generations ago, and I should be getting in a special order bottle of it for everyone to try in the next couple of weeks. I plan on creating another great Manhattan from it, using a more robust bottling of whiskey, probably a traditional rye and using the Angostura bitters. But who knows, the experimentation is half the fun. I’ll keep you all posted and let you know how this turns out. And feel free to stop in and give me a hand in the creation sometime in the next couple of weeks.
Director of Wine and Booze
Second Street Bistro/Murray Bar