Playing with Favorites: The Manhattan

Straight Up Cocktails and Spirits

Have you ever played around with the cocktail classics? Switched up the proportions of - or maybe added a little of this or that to - say a Martini, a Margarita, or a Daiquiri? I recently had a Manhattan mixed in a slightly different way. The flavor transformation was quite dramatic.

Last Sunday, I was cooking an early dinner after cheering on some friends in the NYC Marathon. My husband offered to make me a drink and started browsing though our home bar for inspiration. As I looked up from the pan of tofu I was sautéeing on the stove, I saw his hand fall decisively on our bottle of Regans' Orange Bitters.

What was it going to be? A Pegu Club cocktail? An old-timey "Classic" Martini with gin, vermouth, and orange bitters too? No, he made a Manhattan - that is, a Manhattan with a couple of important changes.

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Instead of Angostura bitters, he used the citrusy orange kind. And instead of the usual 2:1 rye to sweet vermouth ratio I generally use, he mixed this one more in the neighborhood of 4:1.

It made for a great cocktail. The orange bitters lent a warm, coppery tinge and a faint, citrusy sharpness to the drink. And with the sweet vermouth dialed way back, this Manhattan was a whole lot drier, allowing the spicy flavor of the rye to really shine through.

Because it was NYC Marathon Sunday, my husband christened his creation the "Marathon Manhattan."

Okay, I know what you're thinking: Countless others have no doubt mixed a Manhattan exactly this way before. But I'll let you break the news. He's not going to hear it from me!

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NYC Marathon Manhattan

makes one cocktail

2 ounces of rye whiskey (we used Old Overholt)
approx. 1/4-1/2 ounce sweet vermouth (we used Dolin)
3 dashes orange bitters (we used Regans')
Maraschino cherry for garnish (we used homemade)

Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Stir and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Here's a philosophical question for you: How many - or what type of - changes do you think can be made to a drink before it becomes an altogether different animal warranting a whole new name?

Nora Maynard is a longtime home mixologist and an occasional instructor at NYC’s Astor Center. She is a contributor to The Business of Food: Encyclopedia of the Food and Drink Industries and is the recipient of the American Egg Board Fellowship in culinary writing at the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow. She previously covered food and drink in film at The Kitchn in her weekly column, The Celluloid Pantry.

Related: Cocktail Basics: All About Bitters

(Images: Nora Maynard)

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