"Talking about compounders of drinks reminds me of the fact that never before has the taste for "mixed drinks" been so great as at present and new ideas, and new combinations are constantly being brought forward. It is but a short time ago that a mixture of whiskey, vermouth and bitters came into vogue. It went under various names-- Manhattan cocktail, Turf Club cocktail, and Jockey Club cocktail. Bartenders at first were sorely puzzled what was wanted when it was demanded. But now they are fully cogtnizant of its various aliases and no difficulty is encountered."
-"The Democrat", New York, 5 September 1882
By name the Manhattan cocktail stirs thoughts of grandeur. It is one of the most classic of all cocktails, rivaling the Sazerac and Old Fashioned at best. Today with the new great trend of rye whiskey, using rye in the Manhattan is again becoming more common. And truly one of the traditional ingredients in a classic Manhattan was rye, hinting, as I’ve said before, to a past when rye was equal to, if not greater to, bourbon. Well known as possibly the perfect cocktail for any party, the Manhattan is all an American drink, but this isn’t the All-American drink of West in which John Wayne is knocking back “rough young rye.” This is the American drink of brightly lit skylines and the "Golden Years" of the 20s – an America which suggests growth and prosperity. As with any good cocktail the origin is always fuzzy and over glamorized , but the name at least suggest that it originated from the city which has always lived on the edge (though the name most likely originated from Manhattan Club in the early 1870s - no doubt a place on the edge). And Indeed the 1928 film of the same name, expresses this desire to push the envelope. By playing the part in bridging the gap between silent and talk films, much less being filmed by, Dorothy Arzner, one of the only women in the early 20th century making major motion pictures, the Manhattan Cocktail film solidified the Manhattan cocktail as imbibing audacity. And today the Manhattan still lives up that image.
When I first made this drink I mixed up the two recopies. Using bourbon whiskey I followed the rye version and used one part whiskey to one part vermouth and orange bitters. This taught me a quick lesson. The problem with using 1 part bourbon to one part sweet vermouth is the sweet vermouth will overcrowd the bourbon. And unless you are an ultra-sweet tooth, I suggest using rye in the rye version since it just perfectly balances out the sweetness. Either way I would suggest you experiment until you find what you like.
Rye Version (1 Serving):
1oz rye whiskey
1oz sweet vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters (I use Fee Brothers)
Bourbon Version (1 Serving):
1.5 oz bourbon
.5 oz sweet vermouth
2 dashes angostura bitters
Directions (as straight forward as they come):
Step 1: Add whiskey, vermouth, and bitters to a mixing glass filled with ice. Chill a glass with ice and water or put the glass in the freezer to cool. For my particular mix I used Imbue Bittersweet Vermouth.
Step 2: Stir for about 30 seconds until ingredients are well chilled.
Step 3: Strain into cocktail glass and add a cherry or two.
Step 4: Enjoy!