S.I.P. #3 – Manhattan – Sweet! Dry! Perfect?

Now, we have a third S.I.P. – an exciting on-line event for Russian-speaking blogers-imbibers. If you are following my blog, you may know what the S.I.P. is something like a Russian-speaking MxMo. Previous two S.I.P. kindled the Russian-speaking mixosphere and gave rise to some new blogs. So we will see who will delurk at the today’s event!

The main topic of the S.I.P. is the Manhattan. That’s a coincidence! Actually, I have had the Manhattan time during the last two months. The Manhattan is my passion. No, I should define it more precisely, the Manhattan is my challenge. No other cocktail exhilarates me more than the Manhattan. The Manhattan is an absolutely magnificent cocktail with its own story, its unique composition and look.

A popular story about the creation of the Manhattan Cocktail tells that the Manhattan was created in 1874 by a Dr. Iain Marshall for a banquet hosted by Lady Randolph Churchill (born Jeanette Jerome, a daughter of a notorious New York’s tycoon Leonard Jerome), the mother of one of the most outstanding Brits. The banquet was organized at the Manhattan Club in honor of an electoral victory of Samuel J. Tilden – the Governor of New-York, a famous politician and a Leonard’s old friend. The cocktail was named after his birth-place.

Actually, I think, that Jeanette Jerome – a noted beauty and a member of New-York’s high society – was worthy to be a godmother of the Manhattan. But some notorious facts destroy the story. As a matter of fact, the banquet took place at the Manhattan Club, New-York, USA, on December 29, 1874. A very curious detail: as we know Sir Winston Churchill was born on November 30, 1874, prematurely, at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, England. In the second half of the XIX century there was only one way to cross the Atlantic – by boat and the voyage normally took about two weeks! It seems improbable for a woman, who just has given birth, to travel a distance of about 3000 miles and organize the banquet.

On the other hand, cocktail historian William Grimes specifies that Manhattan Club’s records indicate that the drink was invented there, but without noting of a precise date. He suggests that the banquet only popularized the Manhattan.

Thus, the New-York’s origin of the Manhattan Cocktail is absolutely specified. In fact, as some competent people say, New-York was a rye-drinking city in the XIX century. So, American rye whiskey is an authentic type of whiskey for the Manhattan. Both bourbon and brandy came in after the Manhattan gained popularity in some other states. But then Prohibition turned everything upside down, all was changed. During Prohibition, whiskey as well as other kinds of liquor was not produced. American whiskey was dead. But Manhattan was not. The Manhattan Cocktail obtained new fresh blood – the Canadian whisky. Actually, Canadian whisky, also called Canadian Rye Whisky, is quite a different type of whiskey. It has different maturing and blending methods but it makes use of similar to American whiskies raw materials – corn, rye, barley etc. Legal European bartenders and, of course, illegal bartenders of American speakeasies had a practice of using Canadian Rye in the Manhattan during the Prohibition. And it was then, I think, Canadian Rye Whisky became a third proper type of whiskey for the Manhattan.

Well, we know that the Manhattan is a truly American cocktail which consists of whiskey, vermouth and cocktail bitters. The Manhattan has three standard executions – properly speaking, the Manhattan (‘Sweet’ Manhattan), the Dry Manhattan (with dry vermouth instead of sweet vermouth) and the Perfect Manhattan (with both sweet and dry vermouths in it).

It seems toIt seems so simple. But actually the Manhattan has a great shade – potential which lies in using three pretty different types (-sic! Not trademarks, but three different types!) of whiskey. Vermouth also boasts a rich variety. And a range of cocktail bitters is unbelievably wide. It all makes a Manhattan quite a diverse cocktail though within a standard variation. Now I decide to devote the entry to my favorite recipes of three typical variations of the Manhattan. I am exploring each of these over and over again. The recipes below reflect my today’s vision of the Manhattan.

The Manhattan Cocktail garnished with a red maraschino cherry (Коктейль Манхэттен, укоашенный красной мараскиновой вишней)


50 ml rye whiskey or bourbon
25 ml sweet vermouth
1 dash Angostura bitter
Stir all ingredients in a mixer glass filled with ice cubes. Strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with a red cocktail cherry.

Actually I prefer to use Canadian Whisky in my Manhattan. If I am in proper mood I use smooth and not very spicy bourbon. I regret to confess that I have only one bottle of American rye and do not use it in my Manhattans. Why? Because WILD TURKEY Rye 101 proof is an extremely powerful spirit and it easily kills my ordinary vermouths in the Manhattan. That result is categorically unsuitable for me. My Manhattan is about vermouth, not whiskey. The Manhattan, I am concerned with , is not the Old-Fashioned one . The idea of the Manhattan lies in pairing vermouth and whiskey and not in making whiskey easy to swallow.

My average Manhattan is a well-balanced, smooth and little spicy potation with some velvet bitterness. Properly made it is quite a libation.

My next Manhattan is the Dry Manhattan. When I say ‘dry’, it must be dry. I mean, a standard 2:1 version with dry vermouth instead of sweet is not dry enough for my palate. Therefore I use Embury’s proportions (5 : 1) for the Dry Manhattan:

The Dry Manhattan Cocktail (Коктейль Сухой Манхэттен)

Dry Manhattan

70 ml bourbon
14 ml dry vermouth
1 generous dash orange bitters
Stir all ingredients in a mixing-glass with a lot of ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Another important point is using orange bitters instead of Angostura for a great dry taste. I prefer using light bourbon like Four Roses in my Dry Manhattan.

My Dry Manhattan is a pretty dry cocktail. Not fabulous but dry enough. Both bitters and essential oils of lemon peel help drying the cocktail. The entry is dry with a hint of bourbon sweetness, the palate is dry and herbal, and the finish is complex with prevailing bitterness of citruses. My average Dry Manhattan is a well-balanced, dry and moderate cocktail.

Well, and now some words about the Perfect Manhattan. The next recipe I have borrowed from the one of my favorite cocktail book ‘Cocktails and Mixed Drinks’ by Anthony Hogg.

The Perfect Manhattan Cocktail (Коктейль Совершенный Манхэттен)

Perfect Manhattan

40 ml straight rye whiskey or Canadian rye whisky
20 ml dry vermouth
20 ml sweet vermouth
1 dash Angostura bitter
Stir all ingredients with a lot ice in a mixer glass. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry and lemon peel.

Basically, the perfection of the cocktail lies in equal ratio between whisky and vermouths not in equal ratio between vermouths. My Perfect Manhattan is a herbalicious, well-balanced cocktail with moderate spiciness. Actually the balance of it is quite close to my average Manhattan. It is the golden mean of Manhattans. By the way I often prefer the Perfect Manhattan with Peychaud’s bitters instead of Angostura. It gives yet another kind of bitterness, you know.

Finally let me make a short brief:

1. Rye you must. But Canadian whisky works quite well too.

2. Good vermouth makes a good Manhattan. A crap makes a crap. Cinzano works.

3. No Manhattan without bitters. But I mean bitters in quite a wide sense. Palatable bitters sometimes work as good as cocktail bitters, but the Angostura is that will do.

4. Do not shake the Manhattan, it will bruise an excellence.

5. Garbage in, garbage out. And, one drop of poison infects the whole tun of wine. There is no place for any drop of chemical cherry juice in the Manhattan. So, macerate your own cocktail cherries or wash well commercial cherries for garnishing good Manhattans.

6. It seems ‘so bitter’ for you? Leave it and leave me alone!

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The Agavoni Cocktail was founded in The Essential Bartender`s Guide by Robert Hess. Hess specify that this cocktail was created by Bastian Heuser for Mixology Magazine, Berlin, Germany. Actually the Agavoni is Negroni with a tequila blanco instead of gin and with two dashes of orange bitters and grapefruit zest instead traditional orange wheel.

The Agavoni Cocktail in crystal Delmonico glass (Коктейль Агавони в хрустальном бокале)


25 ml silver tequila
25 ml Campari
25 ml sweet vermouth
2 dashes orange bitter
Pour all ingredients into ice-filled Delmonico glass and stir to chill and mix. Garnish with a twist of grapefruit.

For my Agavoni I use tequila Corralejo blanco 100% de agave and Cinzano rosso. Also I use Angostura orange bitter and garnish cocktail with lemon peel.

The Agavoni is simple but excelent cocktail. It has bright sweet and bitter taste with great palate of fruit tequila notes, smooth vermouth botanicals and crisp Campari bitternes. This cocktail also has interesting citrus – lemon and orange – notes. It is admirable cocktail!

Fairbanks Cocktail

Today we drink the real old and almost forgotten cocktail – the Fairbanks Cocktail. The name of this cocktail as Ted “Doctor Cocktail” Haigh supposed origanate from Doug Fairbanks (movie star) or Charlie Fairbank (Amarican politician). Any way it is old but interesting drink.

Actually the Fairbanks Cocktail is variation of famous Martini Cocktail with two dash of creme de noyeaux – French almond liqueur. I use the substitute of creme de noyeaux – amaretto (Disaronno Originale – Italian almond liqueur).

The Fairbanks Cocktail in vintage glass (Коктейль Фэрбенкс в винтажном коктейльном бокале)

Fairbanks Cocktail

50 ml gin
20 ml dry vermouth
2 dash orange bitters
2 dash creme de noyeaux
Stir in a mixing glass with a lot of ice, strain into cocktail glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry.

The taste of Fairbanks Cocktail is great. The dry and herbal taste with great orange palate with a hint of sweet almond. It is very interesting evening cocktail.