The Classic Manhattan

Looking back through the blog recently, I was shocked to find that I hadn’t made a single Manhattan in the nearly 4 years since starting this page. I have had no excuse to ignore this quintessential classic cocktail, so I apologize for my oversight.

The Manhattan is said to have first been made (or at least) introduced in the United States by the request of Winston Churchill’s Mother in a bar in NYC. Since those days the drink has become a true classic recipe known by even the most humble of bartenders. Plus it’s a great example of how a truly masculine drink can be presented in a fancy cocktail glass.

For a drink this simple if you’re not using quality ingredients you’ll be doing yourself and your guests a disservice. A cheap whiskey (traditionally bourbon or rye) will be far too harsh on the palette, while a cheap vermouth will leave quite literally a bad taste in your mouth. No, a good Manhattan is all about the right ingredients all coming together beautifully.

With a deep reddish brown color and garnished cherry this drink feels both classy and intimidating at the same time. With sweet vermouth on the forward aroma, it’s is as inviting to the senses as such a simple cocktail can be. Masked by the mixing of flavors you’re greeted with a pleasant mellow bourbon on the front of your palette. It quickly moves into the vermouth (again get a good one, you’ll thank me), and leads to an oaky bourbon and bitter finish. If you chose rye over the bourbon I imagine you’ll get of its flavor than you do the oak of your favorite bourbon.

The bite is strong, but the flavor keeps you coming back for more! It’s hard to hate a drink like this (unless of course you’re not a whiskey lover).

Alcohol Taste Rating: 8/10
Overall Rating 9.5/10

The Classic Manhattan

2 oz Bourbon or Rye Whiskey
3/4 oz Sweet (Red) Vermouth
2-3 Dashes of Aromatic Bitters
Cherry

“It puts the MAN in Manhattan”

Stir with ice for about 45 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Cocktail Fruit and Garnishes

So it’s been nearly 4 Months since you heard from me last and I thought it was about time for an update. Since early December I’ve been in the process of moving which as you may have guessed has put a damper on the bar considerably. I went from a strong 36+ bottle set, to a set of 1 (and some extras that no one uses anyway…like Campari.) In the process of moving from July to December I scaled back the home bar significantly, and now I’m starting from (near) scratch once again. The time in between however has allowed me to both learn and expand what I want this blog to contain.

While I started this blog with the intention of introducing a new cocktail every week, it has become more of an outlet for culinary creativity in the “craft cocktail” realm. My exploration of good and near perfect cocktails, has lead me to pursue a set of drinks that is both fine in its quality of ingredients, as well as in its creation. From about 2015 on it has been less about “new” drinks and more about ones that I feel are worth highlighting.

This concept of the “craft” cocktail is something that has stuck with me throughout though. Part of the artistry of the drink is more than just a new recipe, but also about the ingredients that you use. Subsequently one of my favorite YouTube channels – Common Man Cocktails expand their branding into a new channel called “The Craft Cocktail” There seems to be a trend of those that make cocktails, calling their art “craft” to mimic the exponential growth of the craft beer industry. That said, I think this blog is a unique reflection on that concept. In short I think a new tagline for the blog should be “Craft cocktaisl with an artist’s touch”

[Food for thought] But I digress…

Classic with a Twist

Classic with a Twist

I want to talk briefly today about the garnishes in cocktail, specifically the use of mint or fruit in some drinks. I have found over time that I really relish the maraschino cherry, or lemon wedge in a cocktail, as it adds not only color and contrast to a drink, but a unique bit of sweetness before or after finishing the cocktail. Finishing a whiskey sour (as I type) and having an orange or lemon slice and a cherry to finish the drink feels oddly satisfying. Fruit garnishes go a long way to making a drink both presentable as well as making it more well rounded.

Sucking on a lemon peel, or eating the pulp of an orange can make the taste of a drink really come to life! The “artistry” of craft cocktails is more than just spirits and bitters, but the garnishes as well! Don’t forget my fellow mixologists, that the garnish can be just as important as which whiskey you choose in your sours.

 

Bourbon Slush

Yes, ok there’s tons of Bourbon Slush recipes out there, but I doubt you’ve ever had one like this! Instead of something from one of my regular cocktail books this is an old family recipe.

Sweet, a little sour, and a whole lot of bourbon this drink is the perfect summer drink for a crowd. You can’t make these in a smaller batch so get out a solid gallon tub to make this in! I’d talk more about the taste, but it’s just something you have to try for yourself. FYI though, don’t waste good bourbon on this, the cheap stuff works just fine.

Bourbon Slush

1 Cup Sugar
1/2 CanĀ (6 oz) of Frozen Orange Juice
3/4 Can (9 oz) of Frozen Lemonade
2 Cups of Hot Tea
2 Cups of Bourbon
6 Cups of Water

Mix ingredients in a large bowl. Be sure that sugar and juice concentrate have all dissolved. Freeze overnight. Scoop out with a spoon or ice cream scoop into the glass of your choice. (Optional) Tops with Coke or another soft drink of your choice (Sprite and Ginger Ale are great options). Garnish with Orange Slice and a Cherry.

*Note do not use liquid or fresh juices. It’s designed to work with frozen concentrated juices.

Bournbon Slush

“Summer time turkey (and some hidden Evan Williams)”

The Classic Mint Julep

I’m back in the new year for a classic cocktail that in many ways isn’t even a cocktail. The Mint Julep is basically just an excuse to drink 4 ounces of Kentucky straight bourbon. Not that you really need a good excuse, but either way it’s one of those drinks that’s perfect as long as you buy the right product. Pick up your favorite bourbon and make this sometime. Need a suggestion on which one? Old Granddad, Wild Turkey, or Makers Mark. Ok? Good. Now drink up.

Alcohol Taste Rating: 10/10 (it’s basically straight bourbon anyway)
Overall Rating 9/10

Mint Julep

4 oz Bourbon
1 tsp Simple Syrup
12-14 Mint Leaves
1-2 Mint Springs

Muddle mint leaves and simple syrup in the bottom of a tumbler glass. Add ice and bourbon. Stir well. Garnish with 1 or 2 mint springs.

mint julep

“A classic southern sipper”

Frozen Blizzard

Here’s something a bit different to close out “Blended Cocktail Week.”

I realize it might seem a bit redundant to say “Frozen Blizzard” but it it important to note that this drink can be make shaken with ice, or blended with it. The drink also calls for 3 ounces of bourbon or blended whiskey which are two very different categories of whiskey which could shift the drink to either side of the taste spectrum. For this variation I decided to mix both the blended whiskey and the bourbon for a more well rounded taste (and also because my bourbon is 100 proof).

The drink has a strong and unblemished whiskey aroma which to any lover of the spirit is quite welcoming. This unique blended cocktail starts off a little sour, then leaves you with a tart whiskey taste on the mid palette and the finish. I do think the drink lacks a bit of flavor complexity despite the mixing of blended whiskey and bourbon. However, if you’re looking for something to blend that isn’t a vodka or rum based drink, this is well worth the try.

Alcohol Taste Rating: 8/10
Overall Rating: 8/10

Frozen Blizzard

3 oz Bourbon (or Blended Whiskey) [1 1/2 oz of each used]
1 oz Cranberry Juice
1 oz Simple Syrup
1/2 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
Lemon Slice

blended blizzard

“Extra Chilly! To warm you up.”

Combine all ingredients in a blender with 1/2 cup of ice. Pour into a tumbler or wine glass. Garnish with a lemon slice (wheel).

 

Flaming Blue Blaster

Well this is certainly an interesting drink for my return from another blog hiatus. The “Flaming Blue Blaster” starts out by breaking a simple rule of mixology: “Don’t shake drinks that are alcohol only. Stir them.” NOPE we’re shaking this drink for some weird reason.

An interesting blue-green color starts you off questioning what is even in this drink (besides curacao). You’re greeting with a pleasant peppermint aroma, with a subtle note of oaky bourbon. The drink starts out sweet and tangy thanks to the curacao, it moves to an oaky alcohol taste in the middle (thanks to the Oakheart Rum, and if finishes in two segments; first a bourbon taste then a refreshing mint. I think my use of both the 100 proof bourbon and 100 proof schnapps for this drink fit the name quite well. For a less intense variation you could easily move to a more moderately proofed variation of either. Even with the intense flavor and proof components it’s still a very good drink and not too overpowering. I’d recommend giving this one a try for a slow sipper style cocktail.

Overall Rating: 7.8/10
Alcohol Taste Rating: 9.5/10

Flaming Blue Blaster

1 oz Bourbon
3/4 oz Peppermint Schnapps
3/4 oz Blue Curacao
1/4 oz Spiced Rum

Shake and strain with ice. Strain into an iced tumbler.

"You Crazy Blaster-ed!"

“You Crazy Blaster-ed!”

Mint Condition

It’s the first day of Fall and we’re rolling in the season with an interesting bourbon drink. Now I’m not one for coffee in general, but I will tolerate Kahlua on the occasion, and this makes an interesting use of the liqueur. The oaky taste of bourbon and Kahlua begins this drink and it ends on a refreshing peppermint blast. Presentation is pretty simple, and itsĀ  slight mint and earthy bourbon aromas. If you have the ingredients it might be worth a try, but personally I’ll be ranking this one lower as coffee doesn’t sit well on my palette.

Mint Condition

3/4 oz Bourbon
3/4 oz Vodka
3/4 oz Peppermint Schnapps
1/2 oz Kahlua

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled sour glass.

mint condition

“It’s not super collectable, but it is in Mint Condition.”