A View of Manhattans

In The Cocktail Book: a Sideboard Manual for Gentlemen (1933 Repeal Edition, though it was first copyrighted in 1900), the Manhattan cocktail is listed alongside Jazz Age drinks honoring the Bronx, Cooperstown, and Narragansett. The book describes the Manhattan cocktail as “two dashes gomme syrup; one-half Italian vermouth; one-half whiskey. Fill with ice, mix, and strain. Add a small twist of lemon peel.”

The tawny Manhattan didn’t die with cloche hats—it only went dormant until a new crop of alchemists assumed the bar. Armed with a new set of tools—like rarified whiskeys, boutique bitters, and a world beyond Martini & Rossi vermouth—today’s mixologists are shaking up manhattans much chicer that that mid-nineties It-Drink, the flavored martini. Yet the basics remain. Old-fashioned gomme syrup is gone, but whiskey’s wollop is joined by wine and spicy bitters, and the resulting icy amber is garnished with a rolling, red cherry.

Mulled Manhattan ($13)
The Farmhouse at Bedford Post
954 Old Post Rd, Bedford
(914) 234-7800

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GM Christopher Tunnah, who hails from Craft, Gramercy Tavern, and Gotham Bar and Grill, was challenged to come up with a cocktail that alluded to the spice of mulled wine, while avoiding that standard’s palate- (and vintage-) killing heaviness. His solution is a chic Manhattan. It starts with the choice of bourbon. “I was looking for a sweet, less earth-driven attack—something that had prominent vanilla and caramel notes. For me, that meant Maker’s Mark.” To the bourbon’s innate candy flavors, Tunnah adds muddled blood oranges and Fee Brothers Orange Bitters. Clove and nutmeg come from classic Angostura Bitters, while Concord grape juice adds an element of dark fruit—what Tunnah cheerily concedes is the obligatory “cheap wine taste.” And the cherry on top (or at the bottom, in this case) is no mass-market maraschino. These ruby ornaments are brandied and imported from France.

Hudson Valley Manhattan ($12) and Perfect Suburban ($12)
X20
71 Water Grant St, Yonkers
(914) 965-1111

Executive Chef Peter Kelly offers two takes on the trendy cocktail, both perfect to sip while enjoying X2O’s fabulous Hudson views. À propos of the setting, his Hudson Valley Manhattan starts with Tuthilltown Baby bourbon, distilled with 100 percent New York State corn. The whiskey is shaken with classic Angostura bitters, though that’s where tradition ends. Instead of winey vermouth, Kelly adds Warwick Valley Sour Cherry Cordial. He garnishes the result with house-brandied local sour cherries.

For those who take their Manhattan “perfect,” or made with rye whiskey, X20’s Perfect Suburban shakes Tuthilltown’s Manhattan Rye with both dry and sweet American Vya Vermouth.

Greenwich Tavern Manhattan ($13)
Greenwich Tavern
1392 E Putnam Ave, Old Greenwich, CT
(203) 698-9032

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Chef/owner Raphael Palomino’s Sonora was one of Westchester’s first really sophisticated bars, slinging faithful pisco sours, Caipirinhas and Mojitos when the rest of the county was drinking frozen, pre-mixed margaritas. Yet while Sonora’s dramatic engine is Palomino’s love of Latino food, Greenwich Tavern in Old Greenwich is the chef’s ode to Americana. Fittingly, his Manhattan starts with an unblended, small-batch whiskey, Michter’s U.S 1, distilled in Bardstown, KY. The golden, buttery spirit (whose flavor also hints at apricot and berry) are joined by another American classic, Vya vermouth. Tradition continues with the classic punctuation—look for a red maraschino cherry, swirling around the bottom.

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