Manhattan Cocktail

Manhattan Cocktail

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  1. For countless centuries, the Indian tribe called the Lenape inhabited the area we now call New York City and, according to Online Etymology Dictionary, Encarta and Wikipedia, in the native language of the Lenape Indians the name Manhattan means “hilly island”; however, the book 5087 Trivia Questions & Answers by Kranes, Worth and Tamerius claims that it means “the place where we all got drunk”. We can question which claim is valid, but let’s face it: the second translation is a lot more interesting, to let’s go with that one.

     Several individuals take credit for the invention of the cocktail of the same name; all we know for certain is that the drink originated on the island of Manhattan (giving some much needed credence to the afore-mentioned translation). What’s important is that the drink is simple to make, but you better be sure to make your request clear when ordering it at a reputable bar, because the difference between a dry and standard Manhattan is akin to the disparity between ice cream and creamed spinach.

     The Dry Manhattan, which is, in essence, a whiskey martini, consists of 3 ounces of whiskey combined with ¼ ounce dry vermouth in an mixing cup ¾ filled with ice (use ice cubes whenever possible; also, many recipes will suggest using 1½ ounces of whiskey; ignore such recipes, for they were written for lightweights will rubber legs). As with all cocktails served “straight up”, meaning in a stemmed glass without ice, you should stir the drink with a cocktail spoon in the ice rather than shake it. Yes, shaking cocktails is all the rage at trendy bars because it looks “cool”; however, you wind up with a watered down, cloudy, unattractive drink and shaking affects the taste as it blends air into the drink, and if you live where the air is foul—like in LA—that’s something you’d rather not have in your drink. Whenever possible, place your stemmed glasses in a freezer to chill them 10 or more minutes before mixing the drink. If this isn’t possible, fill the glasses with ice (crushed if possible) and fill with water and let them sit until the drink is ready to pour; then shake out as much of the water as possible (this method waters down drinks, so you’re always better off putting the glasses in the freezer if you can). Use a cocktail strainer to pour the drinks, garnish them with large green olives and enjoy them with some rapidity, because “straight up” drinks are best imbibed cold. 

     A Perfect Manhattan is the same basic drink except for the garnish and that instead of only dry vermouth, you add only a dash of both dry and sweet vermouth to the mixing glass (generally speaking, a count of four while pouring through a pour spout equals one ounce, though the count is somewhat faster than counting seconds; therefore, a count of 12 will pour about three ounces into a glass). Pour as detailed for a dry Manhattan (chilled glass… How many times must I remind you to chill the darned glasses!) and garnish with a twist of lemon.

     The Standard Manhattan is really the only recipe you’ll ever need. Hardly anyone orders a dry or perfect Manhattan for one good reason: they’re both repulsive drinks! Making a martini out of vodka makes perfect sense as vodka has virtually no flavor; even gin makes a kind of sense, in that its odd flavor goes well with dry vermouth (and nothing else in the world goes well with dry vermouth) and with green olives. But whiskey has a powerful flavor of its own, and adding a mixer that makes whiskey even drier—and drinking whiskey with an olive floating it it—simply makes no sense, other than for shock value for the palate-sensitive. Trust me: if a friend asks you to make him a Manhattan, he will not be pleased if you hand him one garnished with a lemon twist or, worse yet, a green olive.  Wars have started over less.

     To make an excellent Standard Manhattan, first remember to chill your cocktail glasses. This is an important point that most people overlook, so impress your friends by doing it right. Fill your mixing glass ¾ full of cube ice and add a drizzle of maraschino cherry juice (how much you add depends on how sweet you want your drink). Now add the sweet vermouth; be sure it’s the red stuff, not the clear dry vermouth or you’ll create the Frankenstein’s Monster of cocktails. How much sweet vermouth you use is up to you; it all depends on how sweet you like your drink and how much you want to mask the flavor of the whiskey. You should add no less than ¼ ounce of vermouth and as much as 2½ ounces (which will make the drink smooth and sweet but not overbearingly sweet, covering most of the whiskey flavor; I recommend using 2½ ounces of sweet vermouth). If you aren’t sure, start with ¼ ounce, add 3 ounces of whiskey, stir the drink and taste it before pouring; keep adding more vermouth until you achieve the proper sweetness—and keep track of the number count so you’ll know how much vermouth to add the next time you make it. Once you get it right, pour the drink and drop a stemmed maraschino cherry into the glass for garnish. If you add a considerable amount of sweet vermouth and the splash of maraschino cherry juice to the drink, it will come out a brilliant ruby red color that will dazzle your guests. In addition, adding a lot of sweet vermouth and maraschino cherry juice will help to smooth the flavor of sub-par whiskey, and when making a Manhattan you’re better off using the cheap stuff. Save the good whiskey for sipping straight.

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