Behold, my drink! My god, I do love a good Manhattan!
I never wanted to be that girl who asked the bartender “can you make a Manhattan?” – But I became that girl…
But the drink taught me an important lesson: Manhattans are not to be ordered indiscriminately. They are to be treated like a rare steak, ordered only when both the meat and the chef can be trusted.
I started to order Manhattans as a way of stress-testing unfamiliar bartenders. I would do that not only because I love Manhattans, but for me that would work as a barometer: if you can’t make a decent Manhattan, you’ll see no more of me, thank you very much.
I don’t have any hard numbers, but countless glasses having gone down that lead me to be sure that the good Manhattan is not so simple. The tricky part is that there are specific ingredients and changing or adding a little more or a little less of any of the ingredients changes everything in this deceptively simple drink.
In order to get that sophisticated, old-fashioned vibe, rye whiskey is an absolute must! Because rye whiskey, a drier, spicier and sharper whiskey than bourbon, makes the perfect base allowing the bitters to mingle without overwhelming the whiskey’s taste. A Manhattan without bitters is like eating chicken with no seasoning.
Every time a bartender pours bourbon in a Manhattan, a puppy dies.
So, standards must be set — standards for the archetypal Manhattan.
There IS a correct way to make a Manhattan. A bartender who knows how to make a proper Manhattan knows at least one flawless thing in the world and I respect that about him!
And once the standards are set, I can enjoy the perfect drink! The perfect drink to take the edge off, the balm that lets the misanthropic beast in my head get some rest, the drink that makes the sort of evening where everything comes together just right.
When the day comes that nobody will ever again pour a bourbon Manhattan, I’ll gladly put away my “Make Mine with Rye” T-shirt.