One of the finest and oldest cocktails. The Manhattan was the first cocktail that used vermouth as a modifier. As with a Martini, there are slight variations of the drink that are a matter of preference (see the list below).

I had been under the impression for the longest time that a Manhattan used Canadian whiskey (as I’m told many others are) but after a few traditionalist Manhattanite’s comments and a couple of drinks I’m convinced that rye whiskey makes the best Manhattan. After all, it was the original whiskey used for the drink.

Ingredients:

Instructions

from Esquire.com

Shake the rye,* vermouth, and bitters well with cracked ice. (Some insist that a proper Manhattan must be stirred, so as to prevent “clouding” or undue fraternization between the whiskey and the vermouth; Esquire says, let ’em mingle.) Strain into in a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with twist or, of course, maraschino cherry (which is subject to the same challenge re: purity as adding an olive to a martini).

Of course, human beings, being human beings, can never leave well enough alone. Here, then, are the obligatory variants.

First, a few you can make by monkeying around with the bitters: Lose the Angostura and pitch in a splash of Amer Picon and it’s a Monahan; a splash of anisette and it’s a Narragansett; 2 dashes of cherry brandy and a dash of absinthe and you’ve got a McKinley’s Delight. Leave a dash of the Angostura in, add a dash of orange bitters and 3 dashes of absinthe: a Sherman.

Or you can tinker with the vermouth. Replace half the Italian vermouth with French for a so-called Perfect Manhattan. Equal parts of rye, French vermouth, and Italian vermouth: a Jumbo. Make that with bourbon: a Honolulu (no bitters at all in those last two). Cut the Italian vermouth entirely and make it half bourbon and half French vermouth: a Rosemary. To turn that into a Brown University, just add a couple dashes of orange bitters. Coming almost full circle, if you make your classic 2-to-1 Manhattan with French vermouth instead of Italian and a dash of Amer Picon and one of Maraschino, you’re in Brooklyn. And there are more — the Rob Roy, for one, but we gotta stop somewhere.

* In case of emergency — you need a Manhattan and you’re passing a bar of the “Rye? Nah.” variety — Canadian Club will do; it’s got lots of rye in it.

More information on the Manhattan

When properly built, the Manhattan is the only cocktail that can slug it out toe-to-toe with the martini. It’s bold and fortifying, yet as relaxing as a deep massage. J.P. Morgan used to have one at the close of each trading day. It’s that kind of drink.

“When properly built” — there’s the problem. For a real Manhattan, you need rye whiskey. No amount of fiddling with the vermouth and bitters can save this drink if you’ve got bourbon in the foundations; it’s just too sticky-sweet. But with rye, this venerable creation — its roots stretch back to the old Manhattan Club, in 1874 — is as close to divine perfection as a cocktail can be. The harmony between the bitters, the sweet vermouth, and the sharp, musky whiskey rivals even that existing between gin and tonic water.

All things change, and immortality is not in the grasp of man or his creations. For many a year, it seemed that the virtual disappearance of rye meant that the real Manhattan had gone the way of the Aztecs. Luckily, that’s not the end of the story. The wave of high living that washed us out of the last century has brought with it a renewed interest in fine, funky old things like cigars, big-band jazz, and rye whiskey. Sure, sometimes this gets carried to extremes, but if that means that nobody will ever again pour a bourbon Manhattan, we’ll gladly put up with all the dipshits in “Make Mine with Rye” T-shirts.

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