Ahh, yes. Manhattan. The quintessential urban wonderland. A concrete jungle of mystery, innovation and imagination, better known for its flashy exuberance than modest simplicity. Ever the melting pot of new ways to sip, slurp, squeeze and sling libations of all shapes and sizes, it's a little surprising that the drink most synonymous with New York's booze-bangled lifestyle uses fewer ingredients than the city has burroughs, and takes less time to craft than it does to heat up a dollar slice. Enter the Manhattan. First imagined in the late 19th century (by who and exactly where is very much up for debate), this iconic blend has inspired (and retired) dipsos and bartenders alike for well over a century, and remains strikingly relevant with today's craft-loving crowds. Cemented by the ageless trifecta of rye, vermouth and bitters, the endless assortment of quality ingredients available today ensure no two Manhattans taste the same, and allow ample opportunity for experimentation and personalization in the quest for the perfect mix.
What you'll need:
Yarai mixing glass
Holding the drink together is my go-to rye from Michter's Whiskey. Aged in fire-charred, American white oak barrels, and ringing in at a savory 84.8 proof, it's smooth enough to drink on its own and spicy enough to make a statement in any cocktail. Next in line are Noilly Pratt sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters. I use Noilly Pratt for its low price point, full flavor and (most importantly) sleek, photogenic bottle. With the seemingly endless variety of bitters available these days, there's certainly plenty of room to experiment, but I never tire of the archetype herbal Angostura aroma. If you want to get fancy with the cherries, knock yourself out with Luxardo, but I think the traditional maraschino top-of-your-sundae type work just fine.
Now comes the fun part: construction. The most important tool you'll need to build a proper Manhattan is a quality mixing glass, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a better one than this beautiful Yarai piece from Cocktail Kingdom. At 550mL, it's the perfect size for home use, big enough to spin a couple drinks at a time, and small enough to fit seamlessly into your bar. You might ask why you need a mixing glass and not a cocktail shaker. The answer is more complicated than you'd think, and an oft-overlooked detail that has more of an impact on your end product than most people realize. The idea behind mixing is to get the drink as cold as possible without adding air bubbles to the liquid, which results in a smooth, creamy texture when done correctly. Shaking, on the other hand, produces a frothy, foamy, grainy texture, along with a slightly more diluted beverage due to ice chippage. You want your Manhattan cold and smooth. Now, lets mix!
Start off by filling the mixing glass about 2/3 of the way full with ice. Next measure out 2oz of rye and toss it in. Follow that up with 1oz sweet vermouth and a few dashes of bitters. Once the ingredients are in place, it's time to stir.
Slot the barspoon vertically between your ring and middle fingers, using your thumb to keep it steady. Stir clockwise around the outside of the glass so that the ice spins in unison with the barspoon, which is designed to rotate in your hand and will take a little getting used to. Keeping surface disturbance to a minimum, continue to stir for 20-30 seconds. Using a Hawthorne strainer, pour the resulting liquid into your desired cocktail glass, and garnish with a cherry. Finally time for the moment you've been waiting for...enjoy!