Now that I have a bottle of Amer Picon, it was time to make a Brooklyn cocktail. This was long one of the better variations on the Manhattan, but it has frustrated bartenders in recent years due to the unavailability of the French bittersweet liqueur.
If you like the taste of a Manhattan — strong, yet balanced, with the rich, spicy flavor of rye — but are looking for something a little less sweet, then the borough of Brooklyn is definitely where you want to go.
The George Dickel distillery, purveyors of fine Tennessee whisky, have something new up their sleeves this year: a straight rye whiskey. Although there's nothing actually Tennessean about it — the whisky is made in Indiana and bottled in Illinois — the early reports are very good. I hope to be doing a tasting soon.
From Mad Men fashion to vintage home décor, the resurgence of “classic” trends continues to invade modern pop culture and the world of spirits / cocktails is no exception. In recent years, rye whisky – the stuff Sinatra, Sammy Davis and the gang used in their Manhattans – has grown 30% as the art of classic cocktail mixology is firmly back en vogue.
Seeking to add an exciting new option to the category George Dickel Master Distiller, John Lunn, has met the demand of consumers, mixologists and bartenders alike with the release of a rye created the George Dickel way – chilled and then charcoal filtered for the smoothest taste around.
The 90-proof rye whisky has an amber, golden appearance. According to F. Paul Pacult, American spirits expert and author, the initial aroma of George Dickel Rye delivers a fresh, grainy scent with a pleasant note of fruit on the finish. Those fruit notes maintain upon first taste and the liquid finishes with a long, composed spiciness.
Shipping nationwide at the end of Nov., George Dickel Rye will retail at a suggested price of $24.99 for a 750 ml bottle.
Kevin Sintumuang had an excellent article in the Wall Street Journal recently on one of the best, most enduring cocktails of all: the Manhattan.
Take a sip. It's not a race—just a sip. Now savor. Cinnamon. Oak. Vanilla. Mint. Cornbread. Dark cherries, even. The flavors of the Manhattan seem to go on forever. Crazy good, huh? Amazing for a drink that really only has three ingredients: whiskey, vermouth, a dash of bitters. That's the beauty of the cocktail. It's gimmick-free.
You wouldn't think that it would taste so good. Whiskey mixed with aromatized wine? Sounds kinda gross, doesn't it? But the combination is magical, especially when the flavors are bound together with the addition of bitters. (Adding bitters to a cocktail is like adding salt to french fries. Sure you can eat them without it. But why would you want to?)
So how do you make a Manhattan? It's one of the easiest drinks around.
2 oz Bourbon or Rye Whiskey 1 oz Sweet Vermouth 2 Dashes of Angostura Bitters
Stir with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.
Whether you use rye or bourbon whiskey is a matter of personal preference. Bourbon makes for a slightly sweeter, smoother drink. Rye gives it a touch of zing that is very nice. If you prefer to shake this drink, you can shake it. If you prefer it on the rocks — like I do — you can serve it that way. You can also omit the cherry if you don't have any. It's not essential.
As you can see, the Manhattan is a flexible cocktail. Perhaps the coolest thing about the Manhattan, the feature that makes it different from so many other cocktails, is its potential for experimentation. As Sintumuang points out, the Manhattan is endlessly variable — and what's more, it can easily be altered by even the least imaginative of mixologists and still produce a fine libation.
The beauty of the Manhattan is that it only calls for three ingredients—a framework that allows anyone, be it a home bartender, spirits nerd or pro cocktailian, to experiment with confidence. Following the classic recipe above, play with different types of whiskey, vermouth or bitters, and you'll be sipping an entirely new concoction each time.
He includes a guide for Manhattan experimentation, with suggestions for different types of whiskeys, different types of vermouth, and different types of bitters. But even beyond that, you can mix up variations on the Manhattan that take its flavor in bold new directions, while still remaining true to the essential nature of the drink.
One of the most common of these variations calls for replacing the vermouth (some or all of it) with amaro, one of the myriad varieties of bitter Italian liqueurs. Probably the best known of these is the Black Manhattan, which omits the vermouth and instead uses Averna. (This is a good drink, as long as you don't mind the bitterness. Averna has strong accents of orange flavor that work nicely in the Manhattan.)
Other variations call for the addition of a small amount of another spirit, such as orange curacao, Cherry Heering, maraschino liqueur or Fernet Branca. The possibilities truly are endless. As long as you keep as your foundation the essential nature of the Manhattan, you can experiment with discovering the flavors that you like best.
The article shares several recipes for variations on the drink from top bartenders around the country. As if that weren't enough, it also includes a guide to where you can find the best Manhattans in Manhattan. It's a veritable cornucopia of Manhattan-y goodness! Bravo, Wall Street Journal.
I’ve started to become more selective when it comes to rye. The first few ryes I tasted were new and different enough that just being a rye gave them a certain amount of good will. If High West had been the first rye I tried, I might have felt a little happier with it.
I had high hopes for High West. To quote the label, “Marriage of two straight rye whiskies that combines the feisty properties of a high rye 2-year-old and the saddle smooth richness of a 16-year-old.” Sounds wonderful, right?
Unfortunately, ideas that seem wonderful in prospect often fail of that promise in retrospect. So it is with High West Double Rye. This whiskey, despite its marketing-driven prose, seems more like a bourbon (or corn-based) spirit than a rye. It has a nose and flavor of vanilla and caramel, rather than the spice and subtle fire of a good rye.
It quickly recedes to the background in a Manhattan, leaving the stage far too early for a command performance. Perhaps bourbon drinkers will find High West to be a way to ease into drinking rye. For my part, it’s always been easier to jump into the deep end than to tip-toe gradually from the shallow.
High West isn’t a bad whisky, and shouldn’t be spurned if the occasion presents itself. But there are better bottles to be had, and better experiences to be savored.
The Spir.It rounds up their selections for the Top 5 Whiskey Drinks. Their choices (which include recipes and photos) are:
Five very solid picks. I can't really argue with any of them — they're classics. The recipes are pretty good, too, although their Manhattan doesn't have nearly enough Sweet Vermouth in it. Here is how I like to make a Manhattan:
2 oz Rye Whiskey 1 oz Sweet Vermouth 2 Dashes Bitters Maraschino Cherry
Add the spirits to a rocks glass with ice. Stir. Add the bitters and garnish with the cherry.
This drink can be made with Bourbon Whiskey, but Rye lends it an extra zing. For Vermouth, use a good brand like Noilly Pratt or Martini, and make sure it's fresh.
Using Angostura bitters is traditional, but Peychaud's or Orange Bitters also work nicely. Each adds subtle differences to the finished cocktail.
At last, I have found my rye. My desert island Manhattan is now picked out. This is the bottle I would take on a long voyage; into the space capsule; in my suspended animation chamber. Along with companion bottles of Noilly Prat Sweet Vermouth and Angostura bitters, of course.
Templeton Rye is produced by a small Iowa distiller and purports to be a Prohibition-era recipe that was the favorite of Al Capone. With such a great product and rich history, it’s surprising that we have lived so long without being able to obtain Templeton (or at least, obtain it legally) but we should be thankful that we can get it now.
The color in the bottle is a medium amber, like the color of old copper. Lighter in the glass, with a golden glow and the scent of spicy rye bread. The next time you have rye, take a moment to sniff it; the resemblance to a loaf of rye is unsurprising but still powerful.
The initial flavor is dry, bold, and spicy, transitioning to a rich, almost sour flavor, but with an undertone of sweetness. The finish is still dry and spicy and lingers just long enough to sustain you to the next sip. If you’ve become accustomed to bourbon’s sweetness, you will find the Templeton a challenging contrast.
As a cocktail base, Templeton Rye is outstanding. In an Old Fashioned the flavor is rich and dominant; in a Manhattan it is nothing short of perfection — complex yet balanced, a great reminder of why this cocktail has endured more than a century.
Buy a bottle of Templeton, stir up a Manhattan (don’t forget the bitters!), and enjoy a classic that will live forever.
Report Card Quality Grade: A Value Grade: A Final Grade: A
No category of spirit has benefitted more from the cocktail revolution than rye. This whiskey, which formed the backbone of pre-Prohibition drinking, had become nearly extinct by the 1980s. Today rye is to be found in every bar worthy of the name, and no fewer than 40 different ryes are now being distilled in the US. It is almost indispensible in the Manhattan, my favorite cocktail.
Redemption Rye is a recent entrant in this growing market. Sporting a distinctive bottle and a generous 92 proof, Redemption is made from 95% premium rye and aged at least two years in new charred oak barrels. It's distilled in Indiana and bottled in Bardstown, Kentucky, where Redemption also produces a High-Rye Bourbon.
Two years is on the young end for any whiskey, although rye tends to be bottled younger than Scotch, for example. Some of that brash character is evident in Redemption, but there are also some signs of a developing maturity as well. It would be very interesting to see what would happen with a few more years in the barrel.
What we have today is still quite smooth, a bit sweet on the palate with some spice notes (think Christmas spices like ginger or clove.) As a sipping whiskey, it is a little hot at 92 proof and benefits from a splash of water or a few cubes of ice. I think its true potential is best realized as a mixing whiskey — it makes a fine Manhattan. At around $27 a bottle, it’s a very good value and well worth adding to your whiskey arsenal.
Quality Grade: B+ Value Grade: B+ Final Grade: B+
Bob Montgomery is the older, occasionally wiser brother of the Professor. He's a gifted cook and an old hand when it comes to whiskeys.
"A man who has drank his drinks cold at the same expense for one week can never be presented with them warm again." -Frederic Tudor, the 19th-century "Ice King"
One of the greatest advances of the past century is something we all take for granted: the availability of ice on demand. Image what life would be like if you couldn't just open the freezer and grab a few cubes whenever you wanted. It would be like living in the Stone Age, for crying out loud! We might as well start cooking our food by rubbing two sticks together to make fire.
Ice makes almost every beverage better. That's why we drink it in water, soda, punch, lemonade, even iced tea and coffee. I've seen a few brave souls pop open a room-temperature can of Diet Coke and guzzle it down — and it makes me shudder. I can't even drink it cold out of the fridge. I need my ice.
Ice is also a crucial ingredient in most cocktails, and it's not one that should be taken too lightly. Ice plays a vital component in two ways: cooling and diluting.
Ice brings down the temperature of the drink significantly, making it taste better and more refreshing, in addition to dulling some of the sharper edges. (Our taste buds can't register the extremes of flavor in colder drinks as they can in warmer ones.)
Ice also serves to dilute the drink, softening the "fire" of the alcohol and helping the various flavors come together, while also increasing the volume of the drink.
So what kind of ice should you use? The colder and fresher, the better. Ice made in your freezer should be avoided if possible — it tends to pick up noxious odors and flavors from the leftovers you stuck in the back and forgot about three years ago. So unless you have a standalone icemaker, you probably need to buy it from the store. Once you do, keep it as cold as possible. Crank up that thermostat on your freezer until Frosty the Snowman could call it home.
Once you've got your cold, fresh ice, don't be afraid to use it. If you're building a highball, fill the glass to the top with ice. If you're mixing a cocktail, load the shaker up with cubes and shake it like you're straddling the San Andreas Fault. If you're stirring it (as with a Martini or Manhattan, which should usually be stirred), stir the drink for a good thirty seconds.
Making a quality cocktail requires using quality ingredients. Don't spoil that expensive liquor you paid so much money for by using crummy ice. Your palate will thank you.