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.”