Manhattan in Chicago

My sister turned me on to Manhattans. I never used to like them very much. I thought they were too sweet. I was a scotch drinker early on and yes, a smoker as well. After I quit smoking some 30 years ago, I had a difficult time going back to scotch.  Several years ago, my sister and I spent an evening drinking way too many Manhattans (and having a way too terrific conversation) and since then I have been hooked.

The history of the Manhattan is a bit obscure. One legend is that Jennie Jerome commissioned a bartender at the Manhattan Club in New York to create a new drink in honor of the presidential candidacy of Samuel Tilden in 1876. (Jennie Jerome, who grew up in New York, was the mother of Winston Churchill, born in 1874.) Though this legend has never been proved, it is very true that Samuel Tilden was a Bourbon Democrat, a label given, in the last quarter of the 19th century, to conservative democrats who were promoters of business interests and laissez-faire capitalism, and infamously against the reforms of Reconstruction. Being a “Bourbon” might have been just the inspiration for a new drink made with bourbon for a newly christened presidential candidate.

I am not a big drinker. In fact, I am pretty much a “cheap date.” One Manhattan does me in (despite the singular binge with my sister).  After a long week ferreting out the details, ambiguities, and promise of the Constitution with very energetic and demanding 8th graders, this Friday night Manhattan (photographed above by JB) was a welcomed opportunity for recentering this evening.

My favorite way to make a Manhattan:

2+ parts bourbon (Makers, Bulleit, Knob Creek) to 1 part sweet Vermouth (Noilly Pratt)

2 to 3 dashes of Angostura bitters

Put all the above into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake for about 20 to 30 seconds. Pour into a martini glass. Add lemon wedge. (A maraschino cherry is traditional.)

A good article about the history and “structure” of the Manhattan: “The Manhattan project: A bartender spills his secrets on the king of cocktails.”

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6 Responses to Manhattan in Chicago

  1. JEROME BLOOM says:







  2. Mrs. Chili says:

    I have recently become enamored of flavored martinis, myself.

  3. gerryrosser says:

    It is unusual for me to drink anything but red wine, mostly zinfandel (and don’t talk to me about that soda pop known, irritatingly, as “white zinfandel”). That’s not to say I haven’t knocked back some distilled spirits in my time, but that was, as they say, “back in the day.”

    I was, in a prior life, a bartender (in the Florida Keys). Nobody ever asked for a Manhattan, as I recall. Martinis yes, but they all wanted them made with vodka. Thank goodness flavored Martinis hadn’t become the rage, because I would have had to learn how to make them.

    • jyourist says:

      Hey, I was a bartender too “back in the day.” I always used to think that Manhattans were a kind of old-fashioned drink, not hip or cool. I didn’t make too many of them myself back then. Maybe I like them now because I am becoming part of the “new” old-fashioned generation.

      By the way, I totally agree with your perfect description of “white zin.”

  4. isaac says:

    mmmmm… i’ll take two please!

  5. Time for me to buy a cocktail shaker and some bourbon. It looks fantastic. I could use one now to ease the aching shoulder pain.

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