Friday, February 17, 2012

Manhattan Fever

Photo by Kenn Wilson from flickr.
I said in an earlier post that negronis have, to some extent, replaced Manhattans as my drink of choice. Recently, I had the pleasure of traveling to a warm and sunny country, and the sort of area within that country that is not suffering from a surfeit of craft cocktail bars. While I was there, I drank my share of piña coladas and thin yellow beers. I managed to try some good rum (Bacardi Añejo is pretty good!), tequila, and mezcal. But there were very few cocktails, and when I ordered a cocktail, I usually ordered a negroni.

Why, other than really liking negronis? It's a simple drink, equal parts Campari, sweet vermouth, and gin, and these were ingredients that were readily available. It's also easy to explain. I didn't have to worry about 'three parts this to two parts that' or dashes of whatever. I like that it's a bit obscure. Not only does this make me feel cooler than I actually am, I don't have to worry about what the bartenders might think of as 'his' version. Finally, it's a tolerant drink. Especially since I like Campari (another drink of choice was a Campari soda), it doesn't matter much if there's too much (or not enough) Campari.

All this prologue is to say that, when I got home, I was craving a manhattan. The manhattan was the first drink I called my own; I started drinking them my junior year of college, and haven't looked back. My taste in manhattans, however, has changed quite a bit. When I first started drinking them, on the advice of my friend Jim, I added a splash of grenadine. (I may have to try this again once I make my own grenadine). I went through a time where I was making them with just sweet vermouth and bourbon, and then later took to adding Cointreau. This is still the base of my Manhattans -- whiskey, Cointreau, and sweet vermouth. Purists might object, but I find the Cointreau adds some complexity to the drink, and balances out the spiciness of the whiskey, especially when I use rye.

More recently, as I've been experimenting more with various amaros, I've taken to using Averna in my manhattans. The dark bitterness of the amaro complements the whiskey, rather than balancing it out and makes for a deeper experience than the use of Cointreau does. It is especially appropriate, I find, when drinking in the winter; the lightening effect of Cointreau is more appreciated in the summer. The Speakista recommends replacing the sweet vermouth with the amaro and using a sweetening agent so that the final drink is not too herbal. I replace the Cointreau with the amaro, and so the sweet vermouth itself serves as my sweetener. It's a nice welcome home back to a cold climate. Recipe after the jump.

Black Manhattan
1.5 oz rye
1 oz sweet vermouth
.5 oz Averna (or other amaro; Cardamaro works great too)
3 dashes Peychaud's bitters
pour over ice, stir, strain into a coupe glass.

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