Classic Manhattan

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For most of my life, I was a man without a drink.

Yeah, this is not a typical topic for this blog. I normally try to stick to writing about software and such but I’ve been in a bit of a rut. I hope it helps to change it up and write about something I’ve been enjoying lately.

Now back to the story. I didn’t drink in college because the environment was quite Lohanesque and that didn’t appeal to me. For many college kids, the focus of drinking is to get wasted. The choice of alcohol is dictated by what a student can afford and what will get them shitfaced most expediently. Not all college kids, mind you. But a lot.

When I first started to frequent bars and clubs, my drink choices revolved around what drinks were sweet and would get me buzzed. I went through that puerile Long Island Iced Tea period. I had my brief infatuation with Adios Motherfuckers. Remember kids, blue drank spells trouble! But sometimes, trouble is exactly what you want.

Look at this ridiculous drink!

But when faced with a classy social situation, I always hesitated when it came to ordering a drink. I hadn’t found my drink. I went through a Mojito period (which I still enjoy on a hot summer day), the gin and tonic period (which I mostly just tolerated), and so on.

I envied the people in movies and television who knew exactly what they wanted. Bond, James Bond, knew he wanted a Martini, shaken, not stirred (which I hear is actually the opposite of how a martini should actually be prepared but I digress). Don Draper can be counted on to order an Old Fashioned.

Which coincidentally became the first drink that was “my drink”. To celebrate shipping GitHub for Windows 1.0, GitHub threw a party at the Ferry House in San Francisco. It was a classy affair with several bar stations.

Inside of the Ferry building

As per the usual, I asked around for drink recommendations. Someone mentioned I might like a Gimlet so I got in line with that in mind. When I get to the front of the line to order, the bartender swept his hand across the ingredients arrayed in front of him and told me that this was an Old Fashioned station. He only made Old Fashioneds.

Perfect! It was the direct opposite of the Paradox of Choice. Given one choice, I knew what to do. So I ordered an Old Fashioned and we instantly hit it off like a traveler in a foreign country without an international data plan who finds an open wifi network. Where have you been all my life? So began my love affair with the Old Fashioned.

There was only one problem, I couldn’t for the life of me make a decent one at home. Part of the problem is there’s too much work involved and I’m lazy. Like - turning on the tv, jumping on the hotel bed, and watching the hotel channel for an hour because the remote is broken and I can’t be bothered to get back up - lazy. Around that time I was introduced to the Classic Manhattan. There was a particularly good one at the iPic theater (of all places) made with a bourbon they kept in a small cask (they no longer have this specific bourbon, but their Manhattan’s are still good).

This became my new drink. It’s Old Fashioned’s simpler more refined minimalist cousin. There were evenings I’d walk a mile to the local Tutta Bella to order one because I’d get the craving. Apparently, there are antidotes to my laziness. Until my wife smacked me with an epiphany. Go to the Total Wine and More store, pick up the ingredients, and learn to make one.

Of course! A classic Manhattan is much easier to make than a proper Old Fashioned. There’s only three ingredients, Rye Whiskey (for a classic, though I prefer Bourbon), Sweet Vermouth, and Angostura Bitters. Should you choose, you can also garnish it with a maraschino cherry, which I always do.

Here’s how I prepare my Manhattan. I’m interested in some simple easy variations though, if you have them. Remember though, I’m lazy.

Tools of the trade

Tools

  • Measuring tool
  • Stirring spoon (not shake)
  • Cocktail Shaker/Mixer

Ingredients

  • Maker’s Mark (It’s a very good smooth tasty Bourbon. I’m on the lookout for recommendations though.)
  • Sweet Vermouth (I’ve not tried multiple brands yet so I just went with the one they had.)
  • Angostura Bitters
  • Maraschino Cherry

An important note. If you’ve ever gone to a classy bar, you’ll notice that the cherry they use is darker and more flavorful than the bright red supermarket Maraschino cherry. These cherries are often Bourbon infused and cost a lot more than the bright red variety. I think they’re absolutely worth it.

If you’re single and have ample freezer room, freeze your glass. What I do is fill it up with crushed ice while I’m making the drink to keep the glass cold. I’ll remove the ice before I pour in the drink.

Directions

  1. Freeze or fill up your glass with crushed ice. It’s nice to have a cold glass.
  2. Fill up your cocktail shaker/mixer with ice. I use crushed ice.
  3. Pour 2 ounces of Rye Whiskey/Bourbon into the shaker.
  4. Pour 1/2 ounce of Sweet Vermouth into the shaker.
  5. Add 3 dashes of the Angostura Bitters to the shaker.
  6. Stir well to get it cold. Most sites (and I) recommend not shaking it and making it frothy. It’s really up to you. If you want to go all Tom Cruise on that, by all means.
  7. Empty the ice from the glass (important!).
  8. Put the shaker cap on and pour the cocktail into the glass.
  9. Add the Maraschino cherry and maybe a bit of the cherry juice if you like.
  10. Savor your perfect classic Manhattan, you classy person, you.

a finished manhattan

Learning to make this drink saved me a lot of money considering a Manhattan with good Bourbon can go for over ten to fifteen bucks at a bar. My next goal is to learn a few variations and maybe one alternative cocktail for when I get tired of drinking the same thing all the time.

In addition to a fine cocktail, I’ve come to appreciate a good Scotch. Like Ron Swanson, I like a good bottle of Lagavulin 16. When I finished that, I started experimenting with other bottles and am currently working my way through a Springbank 15, a gift from my wife.

a good scotch

It looks particularly good poured into an Octocat Glencairn glass. I have Richard Campbell, a most knowledgeable Scotch connoisseur, to thank for my Scotch kick.

What’s your go to drink and why?

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