Thursday, October 28, 2010

What's in a Name, What's in a Drink: Part II

Even without polling the world of cocktail aficionados, there's some drinks that stand out as the epitome of the term cocktail itself.  One such cocktail is the Manhattan.
Manhattan (Ted Haigh, Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails)
2 1/2 oz rye or bourbon
1 oz sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Combine with ice in mixing glass and stir.  Strain into cocktail glass or over ice in a rocks glass.  Garnish with a cherry, twist, or both
The Manhattan is one of the few cocktails to have maintained popularity even through Prohibition to the modern day.  Ted Haigh describes it as one of the oldest cocktails still made exactly the same way it was 145 years ago.  That said, the Manhattan is not an only child.  In actuality, all the boroughs of New York, with the exception of Staten Island, have a namesake cocktail that has existed since the early 20th Century or before. These cocktails consist of:

The Bronx Cocktail
1 1/2 oz gin
3/4 oz dry vermouth
1/4 oz sweet vermouth
3/4 oz orange juice
Shake with ice and strain into cocktail glass, garnish with an orange wheel
The Queens Cocktail (Gourmet magazine)
1 1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
1/2 oz dry vermouth
slice of pineapple
Muddle the slice of pineapple in a mixing glass with the gin. Add ice and vermouth.  Shake, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.note:  The Cocktail Book:  A Sideboard Manual for Gentlemen (1926) lists a different set of ingredients:  1 tsp grapefruit juice, 1/3 Italian (sweet) vermouth, 2/3 dry gin.
The Brooklyn Cocktail
2  oz rye or bourbon
3/4 oz dry vermouth
1 dash (or 2 tsp) Amer Picon
1 dash (or 2 tsp) maraschino liqueur
Shake with ice, strain into cocktail glass

While these Manhattan siblings may not have stayed in the bartender vernacular as steadily as the Manhattan over the past century, the cocktail renaissance of the recent decade or so has breathed new life into one of these siblings in particular.  The Brooklyn cocktail has found its way into a number of bars and bar books in recent years, notwithstanding the fact that Amer Picon, a French digestive bitters, is essentially a defunct ingredient.  A version of it is still produced, but it is currently unavailable in the U.S. and in any event is a reformulation that is half the proof of the 80 proof original, with an allegedly different taste.  Many bars have either substituted another amaro for it or use a homemade version, often following the recipe for Amer Boudreaux.  As a testament to the quality of the drink, the Brooklyn cocktail has spawned a wide breadth of modern variants, as discussed here, and here.  True to form, these cocktails are named for various Brooklyn neighborhoods:

Red Hook Cocktail
2 oz. rye whiskey
1/2 oz Punt e Mes vermouth
1/4 oz maraschino liqueur
Stir with ice and strain into cocktail glass
2 oz rye whiskey
½ oz yellow Chartreuse
½ oz sweet vermouth
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with a lemon twist.
Cobble Hill
2 oz rye
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1/2 oz amaro Montenegro
2 slices of cucumber
Stir with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with a twist of lemon.
2 oz rye
1 oz dry vermouth (Noilly Prat)
2 tsps maraschino liqueur (Luxardo)
1 tsp Cynar
Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass.
Carroll Gardens
2 oz rye (Rittenhouse)
1/2 oz Punt e Mes
1/2 oz Nardini Amaro
1 tsp maraschino liqueur (Luxardo)
Stir with ice,strain into a cocktail glass. Squeeze lemon twist over the drink, wipe the rim with the peel and discard.
2 oz rye (Rittenhouse)
3/4 oz sweet vermouth (Carpano Antica)
1/4 oz maraschino liqueur (Luxardo)
1/4 oz Amer Picon
Stir with cracked ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
The theme does not end there, however.  Some bartenders in Boston have taken the homage to the boroughs a bit further, bringing gin into the mix in place of whiskey in some Manhattan and Brooklyn variants:
White Manhattan (Deep Ellum)
2 oz Bols Genever
1 oz Dolin Blanc Vermouth
1 cube Demerara Sugar
2 dash Housemade Wormwood Bitters
White Hook (Lineage Restaurant)
2 oz Bols Genever
1/2 oz Vya Dry Vermouth
1/2 oz Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
1 dash Regan's Orange Bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with a lemon twist.
Finally, if touring the boroughs with the variants above proves too much, the venerable Manhattan can be made to take on quite a different character with more modest changes to the recipe. Using rye versus bourbon, or changing up the brand of whiskey used can yield a surprisingly different drink.  Changing up the bitters used can also bring a whole new dimension to the drink (I recommend trying the Bitterman's Xocolatl Mole Bitters).  Whatever your choice, this line of drinks provides an interesting way to tie together the past and the modern day with a template that has both stood the test of time and inspired a wealth of new creations. 


  1. Hey Ben-

    Enjoying following along as you start things off!

    I created a Manhattan varient I'm calling the "Union Square" for Journeyman's house cocktail. I'm considering calling it "Piazza dell'Unione" or maybe "Due Americani" just to be difficult.

    2 oz Berkshire Mountain Distillers New England Corn Whiskey
    3/4 oz Mauro Vergano Americano
    3/4 oz Cocchi Americano
    stir and serve over two large ice cubes
    garnish with orange peel
    dash Bittermens Boston Bittahs

    -Seth Hill

  2. Amer Picon is not defunct and can acquired if you have the right connections or know people traveling to Europe (or were aware of the stash that was uncovered back in 2007). A few bars in Boston including No. 9 Park have it on their shelves so you can try a proper Brooklyn (which is my favorite of the Manhattan variations especially if made with a more subtle instead of fiery rye).

    Torani Amer exists on the West Coast (I have never seen it here in Massachusetts) and is apparently similar. We got a bottle at Tales of the Cocktail in July but have not opened it.