February 9, 2009

The Manhattan: The (Big) Apple of My Eye

A manhattan is easily one of my top three favorite mixed drinks, if not number one. It is simple to make and can take on several different characteristics depending, obviously, on the type of whiskey used. The manhattan, as with all things bourbon, is made more enjoyable by understanding its past.

The manhattan was originally made with rye. However, since other whiskies are more common these days in bars, manhattans are mostly mixed with Canadian whiskey (which has a high rye content) or bourbon. Sometimes even Tennessee whiskey is used. It got its name, apparently, because it was first created in a Manhattan club in the late nineteenth century at a banquet hosted by Winston Churchill's mother to honor president-elect Sam Tilden. Other stories agree that it may have been created in New York, but had nothing to do with Churchill's mom. Either way...

I make my manhattans with bourbon, a splash of sweet vermouth, and a few dashes of Angastora bitters. I've long since done away with strict measurements. I prefer them in a martini glass, with a cherry, shaken with a good amount of ice, and strong. Bulleit makes a great manhattan, as does Rock Hill Farms if you like to add a lot of sweet vermouth (Rock Hill holds up very nice to a sweet mixer). An old standby's like Maker's Mark also makes a tasty cocktail.

Here is a video that takes you through the mixing steps. I don't really think a virgin manhattan mixer needs a visual tutorial, but the video is pretty funny because it has a grammar-school-learning-aid feel to it. Pretty sure I didn't get to watch this in 5th grade though.

My father-in-law loves Crown Royal in his manhattan, and says it makes the smoothest manhattan there is. Another friend uses nothing else but Buffalo Trace to mix his drink. Every different bourbon creates a unique manhattan. Which bourbon is your favorite in your manhattans?


  1. I love manhattans as well. I usually drink mine with Baker's. Bulleit is great, though, as well.

  2. Maker's Mark Manhattan is my personal favorite

  3. Definitely bourbon.

    Buffalo Trace if I'm feeling generous.
    Ezra Brooks if I'm feeling stingy.

    Life may be too short to drink the cheap stuff, but I'm too cheap to mix with $30+ bourbon; there are so many nice choices below $25.