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What’s in The Manhattan cocktail?

What’s in The Manhattan cocktail?


By: Bil­low

A His­tory and Whiskey Debate

The Man­hat­tan is the fame and the testos­terone of a minis­eries in Amer­i­can cul­ture known as the five New York cock­tails named after the five bor­oughs of New York. They are all invit­ing save for the Staten Island Ferry which is as if some local Caribbean tourist cock­tail was ambushed south of New York.

The Brook­lyn, 2 oz rye whisky, 1 oz dry ver­mouth, dash of maraschino liqueur, dash of Amer Picon (French orange fla­vored liqueur. Incon­se­quen­tial for Thirsty Thursday’s pur­poses: it is less a potable and more a dated tra­di­tion only avail­able in France). Shaken into a mar­tini glass. No garnish.

The Bronx, 2 oz gin, ¼ oz each sweet and dry ver­mouth, 1 oz orange juice, dash of orange bit­ters. Shaken into a mar­tini glass. Gar­nished with an orange twist.

The Queens, 1 oz gin, 1 oz dry ver­mouth, 1 oz sweet ver­mouth, 1 oz pineap­ple juice. Shaken into mar­tini glass. No garnish.

The Staten Island Ferry, 2 oz coconut rum and 2 oz pineap­ple juice poured into a high­ball. Stirred with ice. No garnish.

SEE ALSOThirsty Thurs­day — The Man­hat­tan - Learn how to order and enjoy the Man­hat­tan cocktail

Depend­ing on the account, the Man­hat­tan was invented some­time between 1860 and 1890 in Man­hat­tan, New York. The orig­i­nal recipe either had equal parts ver­mouth and whisky or also con­tained gum sap and absinthe. And the archi­tect was either a bar­tender named ‘Black’ or Dr. Iain Mar­shall. Also Win­ston Churchill’s mother was some­how involved, or she wasn’t because she was in France and preg­nant. Regard­less, I am bored with spec­u­la­tion on the ori­gin of this drink and we are going to move on.

There is a heated con­test among Man­hat­tan enthu­si­asts. Is the Man­hat­tan pre­pared with rye whisky, bour­bon or Cana­dian whisky? The answer is actu­ally an eco­nomic story rather than a ques­tion of qual­i­fied supe­ri­or­ity. How­ever, if you are inter­ested in what each will do to the taste of your Man­hat­tan, here are some basic fla­vor profiles:

Rye is dis­tinc­tive, novel, orig­i­nal and bit­ter.
Fla­vor: Spicy, sweet and oaky

Cana­dian whisky is safe, bal­anced and diverse fla­vor pro­files
Fla­vor: Sweet, honey, tof­fee, caramel and oaky

Bour­bon is smooth and loyal
Fla­vor: Sweet, smoky, vanilla, but­tery, fruity, oaky and corn

An unsur­passed com­par­i­son between bour­bon and rye was made in the New York Times: “…rye whisky, bourbon’s sharper-tongued cousin. (For an anal­ogy, think of the dif­fer­ence between rye bread and corn bread)” Thank you Mr. Jonathan Miles. Not con­sid­er­ing, it’s all whisky and I ges­ture at you and your pref­er­ence with endorse­ment. You can­not go wrong; it is the Man­hat­tan, not the Kan­ga­roo Cock­tail (see below).

Balance Resize What’s in The Manhattan cocktail?The Ine­bri­ate Econ­o­mist says; Very few bars carry a good rye if they carry rye at all. Cana­dian Club has been non­sen­si­cally pop­u­lar­ized by Don Draper and will be avail­able in both dives and pre­mium bars. This com­mon blend is one Cana­dian mix that retains a ridicu­lous amount of rye in it. So if you are look­ing to expe­ri­ence an orig­i­nal Man­hat­tan, but none of your ele­men­tary cam­pus bars carry rye whisky, sub­sti­tute Cana­dian Club.
Favicon 1 Post Size1 What’s in The Manhattan cocktail?The Leg­endary Col­le­gian says; The Kan­ga­roo Cock­tail is a euphemism for the vodka mar­tini. I apol­o­gize for beat­ing a dead, well I guess, kan­ga­roo– but the next time you get a mar­tini and decide it is okay NOT to insist on gin in the liba­tion, please remem­ber that it is also known as a Kan­ga­roo Cock­tail you lit­tle boy.

This debate exists because of 100 year old eco­nom­ics rather than an actual fla­vor pro­file argu­ment. Rye whisky was in the orig­i­nal for­mula. Amer­i­can rye whisky became scarce and expen­sive because of the Amer­i­can legal cli­mate and dra­mat­i­cally decreased domes­tic pro­duc­tion result­ing from pro­hi­bi­tion. There­fore, Cana­dian whisky was used because of its avail­abil­ity. Most inter­est­ing is the intro­duc­tion of bour­bon into the cock­tails recipe. There was an imme­di­ate demand for the ‘Amer­i­can whisky Man­hat­tan’ as soon as the 18th amend­ment passed. This sen­ti­ment was stronger than a desire for the preser­va­tion of the Amer­i­can rye whisky Man­hat­tan. What resulted was the bour­bon Man­hat­tan because rye whiskies have a sig­nif­i­cant aging process. Bour­bon does not and was used as a quick sub­sti­tute. The bour­bon Man­hat­tan remained rel­e­vant because patrons enjoyed the sweet­ness of bour­bon rel­a­tive to the spice of rye. So each camp in the debate rep­re­sents a dif­fer­ent period of his­tory. Rye whisky is pre-prohibition, Cana­dian whisky is dur­ing pro­hi­bi­tion and bour­bon is post prohibition.

Balance Resize What’s in The Manhattan cocktail?The Ine­bri­ate Econ­o­mist says; the resid­ual effect of this sud­den demand for an Amer­i­can Man­hat­tan is even broader. When the repeal of pro­hi­bi­tion passed, bour­bon pri­mar­ily was trans­ported by river and it became very and imme­di­ately avail­able to the Amer­i­can South West and the Gulf Coast. The trans­port to the North­ern states was much slower which is why many of those states retain Cana­dian whisky as the pri­mary spirit today because of it avail­abil­ity across the bor­der rel­a­tive to wait­ing for the Amer­i­can prod­uct to travel north; a Man­hat­tan in New Orleans will uti­lize bour­bon, but one in Michi­gan will most likely uti­lize Cana­dian whisky.

Here’s to you,


*Your friends at the Leg­endary Col­le­gian remind you to drink respon­si­bly. Thirsty Thurs­day is intended for respon­si­ble adults of legal drink­ing age who wish to try new drinks, get infor­ma­tion about alco­holic bev­er­ages, drinks and cock­tails. It is purely intended for enter­tain­ment purposes. 

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