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For my Manhattans I seem to go old school and basic in my whiskey...

I try all sorts of spirits. I probably have 60 bottles of liquor at home. Someone on the Boston Board recently convinced me to thy the reincarnated Rittenhouse Rye in my Manhattans.

Way too sweet. I like Jim Beam white or Old Overholt better.

Heck, I've ranted on this before, but a lot of the (old sounding) new whiskeys are just too pumped up for my palate. Straight or in a cocktail I like my brown liquor a little leaner a little less overdone. These days even Jim Beam Black, an old favorite of mine, has just a bit too much going on.

Maybe I'm getting old...

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  1. Don't shoot me, but I'm a Canadian Whiskey Guy myself. I don't buy into what's the best....only what I like.

    1. Agreed on the Rittenhouse. Old Overcoat is my standard. Have you tried Sazerac? Very good, too.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Up With Olives

        I'm a big fan o Sazerac. The young stuff works well in a manhattan, and at $24 a bottle it's reasonably priced. it has a nice earthy flavor.

      2. Old Overholt, Noilly Prat and Angostura on the rocks for me. The Manhattan was my go-to drink for years, although I've largely bypassed them lately as I've been exploring other options.

        4 Replies
        1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

          Much as I like so new and some old school cocktails, in the fall/winter I just can't get passed a nice Manhattan after work. I do make my own bitters which is pretty tasty.

          What have you been drinking Barmy?

          1. re: StriperGuy

            I've mostly been getting into gin for the first time over the last couple years. My college girlfriend, who was the person who introduced me to intoxicants beyond the occasional beer, refused to touch the stuff: she was originally from Houston's Fifth Ward (to give you an idea, that's where the '90s gangsta rappers the Geto Boys were from) and strictly associated gin with a bunch of cultural stereotypes she wanted nothing to do with. So gin wasn't on my radar until after I moved to Boston and married a woman whose preferred summer drink is a large G&T.

            1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

              Ahhhh, see I associate gin with summer as well. I was on a big Aviation kick til the weather turned cold.

              1. re: StriperGuy

                I'm a strong believer in seasonal foods, so it makes sense that I think in terms of seasonal drinks. I'll certainly drink gin-based cocktails (including Aviations) outside of the summer, but certain drinks -- G&T, Pimm's Cup, vodka and lime -- I would only drink during the summer, the same way I only want Manhattans during the colder months.

        2. Dickel rocks a Manhattan. I use No. 12, which is the perfect balance of sweet and dry.

          1 Reply
          1. re: sku

            Hmmmm I haven't had that Tennessee whiskey in a long time. Might have to grab a bottle.

          2. I share your dislike of Rittenhouse, particularly in a Manhattan. While I do like the bolder whiskeys neat, on the rocks, in a Manhattan or Rob Roy, something subtler is much better.
            I would add, though, that using bourbon is decidedly not old school. An old school Manhattan would only use rye. My favorite for a classic Manhattan is Wild Turkey Rye.

            1 Reply
            1. re: danieljdwyer

              Yah, it really should be Rye. Funny, I often order Wild Turkey when I am out for the evening, but don't think I've ever owned a bottle...

            2. Which Rittenhouse? The 80 or the in bond 100?

              12 Replies
                1. re: StriperGuy

                  StriperGuy said: "Maybe I'm getting old..."

                  Isn't it odd how personal preference affects ones perception of what is "good?"

                  One person may really enjoy an expensive bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape,
                  while the next person may think it tastes like the floor of a barnstall.

                  Manhattans, and Gin Martini's, were one of the first cocktails I started drinking when I was younger. Now as I am getting older, I find that I like more aggressive seasoning in my food (more black pepper, please) and more flavor and complexity in my cocktails.

                  Personally, my favorite Manhattan (right now) is Rittenhouse bonded 100, Vya red vermouth, 2 dashes of Angostura and 1 dash Regan's Orange, with a homemade brandied cherry.
                  This is an explosive over-the-top bursting-with-flavor Manhattan, and there is nothing subtle or lean about it.

                  But tastes change, and perhaps in time, I will return to the more austere classic Manhattan recipe.

                  1. re: jerryc123

                    You should try my homemade bitters...

                    1. re: jerryc123

                      Your Manhattan sounds almost identical to mine, except that I also like to add a couple of dashes of Fee Whiskey Barrel Aged bitters in addition to everything else. I like bitters--a lot. Doing 2:1 on the rye:vermouth?

                      By the way, there are various quizzes to find out what kind of "taster" you are (I just Googled and quickly found the one that follows). I've taken a few of these and score in "tolerant taster" range every time. I suspect you'll do the same. StriperGuy and others who don't enjoy this kind of Manhattan, perhaps not. It's interesting to think about how this might change over time...


                      1. re: davis_sq_pro

                        I actually like my foods VERY strongly spiced so I don't think the logic carries. I just don't like my drinks too sweet. And that Rittenhouse to me just overwhelms with sweet and chocolatey sort of tastes that I don't really want in my whiskey.

                        I go 4 to one whiskey to vermouth

                        Hmmmmm, I scored a 7:

                        1. Do you like your coffee or tea black? Yes
                        2. Do you like the taste of scotch? Yes
                        3. Do you prefer salty flavors to sweet ones? No
                        4. Do you prefer dark chocolate over milk chocolate? Yes
                        5. Do you feel that putting cream or sugar in coffee or tea ruins the beverage?

                        1. re: StriperGuy

                          Interesting- since I've been drinking a lot more Rittenhouse than bourbon over the past year or so, I find that some of my favorite bourbons now taste sweeter than they used to by comparison to the spicy rye.

                          1. re: ted

                            I agree that most bourbons are sweeter than most ryes, but Rittenhouse is sweet for a rye, and some bourbons, like Jim Beam, aren't very sweet at all.

                            1. re: ted

                              I far prefer Old Overholt to the Rittenhouse.

                          2. re: davis_sq_pro

                            Tolerant Taster ? Sensitive Taster? Hypersensitive Taster?

                            The correct terms are Non Taster. Medium Taster. Super Taster.

                            Call me a sceptic, but it sounds like Ms. Thatch (who is a professor of wine business and management at Sonoma State University, not a scientist) was badly paraphrasing some real 1931 research, for a keynote speech at Copia in 2007.

                            She either got the terms terribly wrong, or made up new ones.

                            Here is the original research from 1931...

                            And StriperGuy and I answered that quiz identically, and have different preferences in Manhattans... so I'm not sure if that means anything.

                            1. re: jerryc123

                              J123: I'm with you. You can not possibly reduce the vast differences in taste and preferences down to three types, particularly with such a limited questionnaire.

                              1. re: StriperGuy

                                Especially when those three types, as they are commonly interpreted, have little scientific basis.

                          3. re: jerryc123

                            I do love Vya vermouth, both sweet and dry. But if you're into "bursting with flavor," you owe it to yourself to try Carpano Antico in your Manhattan. Sublime.

                      2. I love Rittenhouse bonded for some drinks (like a Sazerac), but agree not for a Manhattan - it's not rye but I go with Eagle Rare bourbon (Michter's for rye when feeling flush) - and it depends on which vermouth as well - Vya just edges out Carpuno Antica for me with the Eagle Rare.

                        1. I like Wild Turkey 101 Rye in my Manhattans. Light on the sweet vermouth, two shakes of Angostura or Peychauds, and I'm a happy guy! Oh, and I further blaspheme by having it on the rocks...

                          18 Replies
                          1. re: ed1066

                            I always like my Manhattan's on the rocks.

                            1. re: ed1066

                              Another on-the-rocks vote...when served straight up, it either gets warm or I drink it too fast for my one good.

                              1. re: cavandre

                                Spitting hairs here but doesn't serving it on the rocks change it from a Manhattan to something else? It surely dilutes as time goes on.

                                my personal recipe for a bourbon Manhattan
                                2 parts bourbon on hand (buffalo trace is to my taste lately)
                                1 part Vya sweet vermouth
                                dash of angostura (not always doing this)
                                couple of dried sour cherries that were reconstituted by boiling with a little water, triple sec, and cognac till a syrup forms
                                stirred, served up

                                1. re: dhs

                                  I like the slight dilution toward the end.

                                  Bitters is mandatory for me, not a Manhattan without it, either Angostura or my own homemade.

                                  And until I ran out, my own home made spiced bourbon cherries were awesome.

                                  1. re: StriperGuy

                                    Sounds like it's time to take advantage of the southern-hemisphere cherry season. I noticed the first Chilean cherries at Costco the other day.

                                  2. re: dhs

                                    You might be right, but if we're being that strict about it, your recipe can't really be considered a Manhattan either. It's more interesting to allow for some variation.
                                    Also, it will eventually become more diluted than a neat, shaken Manhattan, but for the first few minutes it will be stronger.
                                    I personally go with on the rocks. If I'm drinking a Manhattan instead of a neat whiskey it's because I want a cold drink. The vermouth and bitters make the drink less subtle, so the flavor stands up better than plain whiskey when served cold. And I hate being served a Manhattan in a martini glass.

                                    1. re: danieljdwyer

                                      Yes, I would have to agree intepretation is a good thing.

                                    2. re: dhs

                                      i don't know if there's a name for a drink made from rye/bourbon, vermouth,and bitters served on the rocks, but i would think it's generally called a 'manhattan on the rocks'. the drink already contains water (due to stirring or shaking...hopefully stirring) as do most cocktails. cold ice would add more over time, but not add anything new.

                                      i do think the argument could be made that if there are not bitters in the drink, regardless of if it's served up, it's not a manhattan.

                                      1. re: tommy

                                        Yes, I see the point on both. The reason for loosing the bitters really has to do with Vya. It has a complexity that is beyond any other vermouth I have tried and Angostura actually clouds it I find. Anyway, I don't want to belabor this point but vermouth really needs to come into its own, IMHO, in the near future with more artisinal versions coming out to work with. A homemade version(s) is on my list of to dos.

                                  3. re: ed1066

                                    That's my formula for a Manhattan as well, preferably with Peychauds. My blaspheme, though, is not to have it on the rocks but to add sour cherries that have been macerated for a few months in Maraschino Liqueur.

                                    I'd love to try making my own bitters. Has someone posted a special recipe? Could someone point me to it?

                                      1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                        Wow - that recipes sounds awesome, but it's pretty intimidating as well - are these available for purchase? What's the brand and where do you get them?

                                        One of the best Manhattans I ever had was from Le Peche in Austin with housemade cherry vanilla bitters (reportedly from a recipe from an out of print cookbook from Absinthe in San Francisco) - still looking for source of something close!

                                        1. re: rlh

                                          Fee Brothers makes a cherry bitters that Jamie Boudreau said in a later post should be a good sub for his homemade one. I haven't tried either so no comment, but if Boudreau says the Fee version is good I'd be perfectly willing to take his word for it...

                                          Here's the recipe for the Cherry-Vanilla bitters, which I've very quickly typed in from "The Art of the Bar" (the Absinthe cocktail book):

                                          2 tsp quassia
                                          2 tsp cardamom seeds
                                          1.5 tsp anise seeds
                                          pinch of gentian
                                          pinch of cassia
                                          1 tsp grated ginger
                                          3 cups 100 proof rye, preferably Rittenhouse
                                          5 vanilla beans
                                          1/2 cup cherry bark
                                          3 cups water

                                          Toast quassia, cardamom, anise, genitian, cassia in a dry pan
                                          Cool, put in a jar, add ginger and rye, shake, and store in a dark place for a week, agitating once a day
                                          Strain through a cheese cloth
                                          Cut vanilla beans in half and add along w/ cherry bark to the strained mix
                                          This time wait two more weeks, then strain again, reserving the cherry bark and vanilla beans
                                          Put the beans and bark in a pan with the water and simmer for 20 minutes, then store that mixture for two more weeks. Then mix that stuff w/ the rye mix and strain/filter until everything is totally clear

                                          ... by the way, I just checked Amazon and the book is still available for purchase. Good book with some interesting recipes--I definitely recommend picking up a copy.

                                          1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                            Awesome - thanks - the book is now en route...and if you please, where is the best place for me to find cherry bark, quassia, gentian, and cassia (cinnamon?) in the Boston area or online?

                                            1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                              Yes, please. Any tips on where these ingredients can be bought online? I found frontiercoop.com, but I'm not ready to pay $32/lb for gentian when one only needs a pinch. And so far, at least, I'm only finding quassia in bark form--although I guess one could grind one's own. This is beginning to seem as though it could be a very expensive experiment.

                                              1. re: JoanN

                                                In a previous thread about bitters, Chowhound user and distiller JMF was nice enough to point me to this web site...

                                                1. re: jerryc123

                                                  Ah. That's more like it. 1oz gentian root powder for $4.35. Now, to go search for that other thread you mention. Thanks.

                                    1. Found this interesting to the discussion. A wikipedia history of the Manhattan cockatil. Especially interesting for this discussion are the recipes at the end. Many variations. The Manhattan continues to evolve, as have many cocktails without a definitive recipe.


                                      1. It's interesting how substituting one ingredient in a Manhattan can lead to a change in the proportions or even the choice of the others. Case in point, I've been making mine with Wild Turkey 101 (2 parts), Martini & Rossi (little less 1 part), Angostura and Regans Orange bitters and a twist. I know M&R isn't a favorite on this board, but it was what I’ve been able to find in the small bottles and I’ve found over time (though experimenting with different whiskeys) that the sweet syrupiness seems to hold up well to the WT. Well, I just purchased a bottle of Dolin Rogue vermouth last night and it's clearly much more complex than M&R, but also much more delicate. Using my same recipe, I noticed a much more alcohol forward profile. I was thinking of perhaps increasing the proportion of vermouth in the mix, but I'm also wondering what other whiskeys might complement the Dolin. Old Overholt, at 80 proof, seems like a good place to start. For anyone else who has used Dolin, I'd appreciate any feedback.

                                        1. On more than one occasion, a bar customer of mine has noticed me about to add my "secret ingredient" to a Manhattan, the bitters, and they stop me. "Bitters only belong in an Old Fashioned, never a Manhattan." I think that concept was furthered by lazy bartenders, that's all.

                                          If I'm in a crowd of people I haven't met I sometimes consume drinks too quickly. A Canadian Manhattan (or a Rob Roy) or a Bourbon (Jim Beam) Manhattan is something I have to sip slowly. That way I don't get ahead of myself. I'm loving the fact that nowadays at cocktail parties craft Manhattans are being passed instead of the ubiquitous vodka shots.