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The Perfect Manhattan


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OK- I'm on a quest to find the perfect perfect manhattan in town.

Thus far my top 3 contenders are the following in order:

1. Restaurant Eve- made by Todd Thrasher himself.

2. Bourbon- tie for the one made by Owen and the one made by Patrick

3. Cashion's- can't remember the bartender's name

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What makes the three you mentioned standout?
The first one stands out because of the unbelievable bitters that were used, and I believe they were homemade. The second two standout because of the ratio of bourbon to vermouth to bitters. This is a drink that should taste like bourbon but it shouldn't be overwhelmingly bourbon. I should be able to drink it and feel like a guy drinking a strong mixed drink, but Robyn should be able to taste it without making that face she does whenever she tastes my Black Maple Hill 16 yr. It should be sweet, dry, strong, and leave a wonderfully clean taste on the tongue.
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The first one stands out because of the unbelievable bitters that were used, and I believe they were homemade. The second two standout because of the ratio of bourbon to vermouth to bitters. This is a drink that should taste like bourbon but it shouldn't be overwhelmingly bourbon. I should be able to drink it and feel like a guy drinking a strong mixed drink, but Robyn should be able to taste it without making that face she does whenever she tastes my Black Maple Hill 16 yr. It should be sweet, dry, strong, and leave a wonderfully clean taste on the tongue.

What bourbons were used in your top three?

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The first one stands out because of the unbelievable bitters that were used, and I believe they were homemade. The second two standout because of the ratio of bourbon to vermouth to bitters. This is a drink that should taste like bourbon but it shouldn't be overwhelmingly bourbon.
Are you sure they were made with bourbon and not rye? For my taste, I have always found that a Manhattan made with rye was the only way to go.
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I've been on a manhattan kick recently, and have been on a constant search for other places with Rye whiskey. I've had a hard time finding them, but it's been a fun trip. In no particular order:

Childe Harold - no rye. cheap, though. $7-ish

Bourbon - still one of the only consistent places that carries rye, but their selection has been dropping recently. still, the sazerac is great, and the glasses have the bonus of being stemless. Not cheap for the good stuff, but the Jim Bean rye is in the $7 area.

Kramerbooks - no rye. $10ish

Corduroy - Tom Brown's bitters. Rye. delightful.

Tonic - no rye. $10ish?

Grand Central - no rye (at least at the upstairs bar). $10ish

Ruth's Chris - no rye. Knob Creek was $11 and change.

Mandu - no rye, and something was seriously off about the manhattan (low on the vermouth, maybe?). $10ish

those are all the ones i can remember offhand. Any more suggestions welcome (bonus if they're in Dupont/Adams), but I'm beginning to think this is a cocktail I'm just going to have to have at home. That Rittenhouse is delightful.

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Joe and Jake: You forgot the cherry! I've got a batch of sour cherries I macerated in brandy, kirsch and sugar last July, and they're mighty tasty in the Manhattans we've been making. Palena makes their Manhattans with macerated dried cherries. Both are a great improvement over maraschinos.

Try this - scroll to post #64.

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Stop by Bourbon Steak to admire the cocktail menu. Manhattans made the right way are featured. Rye + Dolin sweet vermouth or Carpano Antico. They have an impressive assortment of bitters, too.

How are the cherries? The only downside of Central's was the ordinary cherry...the neon red kind that comes from a jar you can buy at Safeway and has almost no character of its own.

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House made brandied cherries. House vermouth is Dolin Rouge, Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aromatic bitters are available.

Approve.

I gotta say I'm still apprehensive about the Dolin manhattan, despite all the enthusiasm. That Dolin rouge is just such a different vermouth character than what I've come to love. Needs investigation.

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A Dolin manhattan is a whiskey drink. A Carpano manhattan is a Carpano drink.
Please explain. Do you just mean that CAF is crazy delicious and Dolin is great, but not quite so much so as to dominate a cocktail and deserve top billing or that if you were using CAF you'd do a higher proportion than you would if you used Dolin? I use CAF for my manhattans now -- thanks to you and Joe -- and I tend to use a high proportion of it, but I'm curious about these Dolin bottlings. Indeed, I just picked up a bottle of the blanc from Schneiders and am not quite sure what to do with it.
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A Dolin manhattan emphasizes the whiskey, with the vermouth rounding out the edges and adding a bit of subliminal complexity. A Carpano Antica manhattan has so much more spice from the vermouth that the whiskey is subsumed. It's not necessarily a worse drink, but it's a very different drink.

As for Dolin blanc (which is the sweeter white-colored vermouth from Dolin, similar to Martini Bianco), mixing it 1:1 with aromatic gins can be nice (experiment from there with dashes of different bitters, maraschino, and Cointreau). Derek Brown mixed me a variation on the Old Pal with rye, Dolin blanc, and just a smidge of Campari. That was pretty delicious. Of course, a lot of my friends' favorite Dolin blanc cocktail is Dolin, ice, and a glass :P.

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I'm surprised that I didn't read anything about Chris's perfect (though pricey) Manhattan that was offered at Dino. I'm not sure if it's still available at Dino (or now available at Enology, where Chris is now), but it was truly the best in the city.

My house Manhattan, which I love, is my own combination of Makers, Vya sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters (though I love a more cinnamony bitter). I go lighter on the vermouth, because I use Makers, a sweeter bourbon.

What was in Chris's version?

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What was in Chris's version?

willet's, caf, house made bourbon soaked dried cherries, one of the fee bittters.

scott makes an Italian inspired variant called The Five Families which uses a touch of Averna Amaro, CAF, bitters and maker's mark with the same house made cherries. Just to get Scott off the hool with the IADL, I came up with the name.

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I'm surprised that I didn't read anything about Chris's perfect (though pricey) Manhattan that was offered at Dino. I'm not sure if it's still available at Dino (or now available at Enology, where Chris is now), but it was truly the best in the city.

My house Manhattan, which I love, is my own combination of Makers, Vya sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters (though I love a more cinnamony bitter). I go lighter on the vermouth, because I use Makers, a sweeter bourbon.

Thank you ... Yes I have it at Enology and you sir get a free one on your next visit :P

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May I suggest that the Manhattan is the "comfort food" of cocktails. I would put it up there with burgers, actually. Sure, most everyone likes them. But they really are not the tell-tale sign of a great bartender, IMO. In fact, it's pretty hard to make a terrible Manhattan, the same way it's hard to make a terrible burger (assuming all ingredients used are fresh). I think Manhattans are used the same way most burgers are used in fine dining nowadays: as an entry point on a menu that offers vastly more creative dishes.

A cocktail made only of whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters is medium-to-heavy bodied. Plus, there's really no citrus involved. So you're riffing with a recipe that has limited range, and most experiments go the show-stopping, heavy-bodied direction (much like a burger). Rarely do I see Manhattan riffs that strip away, instead of pile on.

I like Manhattans (and burgers) very much and I am not trying to say they are wack or whatever. I went thru a craving 5 months ago where it was my at-home drink. Just a suggestion that they aren't the end-all, be-all drink. More than any other cocktail, I keep hearing the "Where's the best Manahattan in town" refrain and would like to widen the candidate pool a bit. I would suggest the Martini or the Gin Fizz, instead. The Rickey is another candidate, but for whatever reason that "best in town" refrain only lasts for a month, which is a shame.

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May I suggest that the Manhattan is the "comfort food" of cocktails. I would put it up there with burgers, actually. Sure, most everyone likes them. But they really are not the tell-tale sign of a great bartender, IMO. In fact, it's pretty hard to make a terrible Manhattan, the same way it's hard to make a terrible burger (assuming all ingredients used are fresh). I think Manhattans are used the same way most burgers are used in fine dining nowadays: as an entry point on a menu that offers vastly more creative dishes.

A cocktail made only of whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters is medium-to-heavy bodied. Plus, there's really no citrus involved. So you're riffing with a recipe that has limited range, and most experiments go the show-stopping, heavy-bodied direction (much like a burger). Rarely do I see Manhattan riffs that strip away, instead of pile on.

I like Manhattans (and burgers) very much and I am not trying to say they are wack or whatever. I went thru a craving 5 months ago where it was my at-home drink. Just a suggestion that they aren't the end-all, be-all drink. More than any other cocktail, I keep hearing the "Where's the best Manahattan in town" refrain and would like to widen the candidate pool a bit. I would suggest the Martini or the Gin Fizz, instead. The Rickey is another candidate, but for whatever reason that "best in town" refrain only lasts for a month, which is a shame.

I respectfully disagree about it being pretty hard to make a terrible Manhattan; one of this city's best craft bartenders made me the single worst Manhattan that I've ever had, and not from a lack of skill, but because they used a whiskey that was terribly ill-suited for the purpose. At the risk of embarrassing both the bartender and the whiskey producer, I decline to name either one, but I'm almost 100% certain that said establishment no longer has the whiskey in question, so I chalk it up to experience. But as long as you have the proper ingredients, then yes, it SHOULD be difficult to screw up a Manhattan.

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