Manhattan Cocktail History: A Potent Mix of Wit, Whiskey, and Whimsy

two manhattan drinksManhattan Cocktail History: A Story

Let’s take a jaunt down memory lane, back to the good ol’ days of New York City. Picture this: the Manhattan Club, bustling with the elite, where the air is thick with cigar smoke and political banter. Enter Samuel J. Tilden, a man with a plan (and a penchant for politics), and Dr. Iain Marshall, a chap who knew his way around a cocktail shaker. The year was 1874, and these gents concocted a potion that would make history—the Manhattan Cocktail. The original mix? A suave blend of rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and a couple of dashes of bitters. Legend has it, the drink was a hit at a bash hosted by Lady Randolph Churchill (yep, Winston’s mum). Whether she actually graced the club with her presence is a tale shrouded in mystery, but who cares? The drink was a knockout!

The Whiskey Twist: Small Batch Rye’s Rise to Fame

Let’s cut to the chase: Manhattan is nothing without its soulmate, rye whiskey. This isn’t just any old whiskey; we’re talking small-batch rye, the kind that whispers sweet nothings to your palate. Whiskey Collective knows this secret and has built an empire on it. This rye is the backbone of the Manhattan, bringing a spicy, fruity zing that pairs perfectly with the sweet vermouth. It’s a match made in heaven, like Bogart and Bacall, but in liquid form. Remember, when you’re sipping on a Manhattan, you’re not just drinking a cocktail; you’re imbibing history, culture, and a dash of rebellion.

Vermouth Variations: Sweet, Dry, and All That Jazz

Now, let’s waltz over to vermouth. In this dance of flavors, sweet and dry vermouth cut a rug with style. Originally, sweet vermouth was the belle of the ball in the Manhattan recipe. But as the cocktail evolved, dry vermouth stepped in, giving birth to the dry Manhattan. And who could forget the Rob Roy, the Manhattan’s Scottish cousin, swapping out rye for Scotch whisky? The choice of vermouth, be it sweet or dry, changes the cocktail’s character faster than a New York minute. It’s like choosing between a night at a roaring jazz club or a serene evening at a sophisticated lounge.

The Garnish Game: Bitters, Cherries, and Twists

Finally, let’s garnish this tale with the unsung heroes of the Manhattan – bitters and cherries. A dash of Angostura bitters here, a splash of orange bitters there, and voilà, you’ve got complexity in a glass. These bitters are like the spice rack of the cocktail world, turning a good drink into a great one. And let’s not forget the cherry on top – or, in this case, the maraschino cherry in the drink. It’s not just a garnish; it’s a sweet, boozy treat waiting at the bottom of your glass. Some might say it’s the best part. They’re not wrong.

Join the Whiskey Revolution

Now that you’re well-versed in the lore of the Manhattan, why not take your appreciation for small batch whiskey to the next level? Sign up for Whiskey Collective’s quarterly whiskey subscription and get exclusive access to the finest small batch whiskeys, tailor-made for your Manhattan adventures. Whether you’re a seasoned connoisseur or a curious newcomer, it’s time to raise a glass to history, flavor, and the art of a well-crafted Manhattan. Cheers!


Frequently Asked Questions

Who invented the Manhattan cocktail?

Ah, the Manhattan—the brainchild of Dr. Iain Marshall, or so the tipsy historians tell us. This guy supposedly mixed it up for a fancy shindig at the Manhattan Club in the 1870s, impressing Lady Randolph Churchill and all the top hats in attendance. But let’s be real, Lady Churchill was probably sipping tea in France, not downing cocktails in New York. Still, we’ll give Dr. Marshall a high five for the effort and for giving dudes a sophisticated alternative to chugging beer.

Why do they call a Manhattan a Manhattan?

It’s called a Manhattan because it was born in a place where the buildings are as tall as the drink’s reputation – the Manhattan Club in New York City. This wasn’t just any watering hole; it was the watering hole, where the who’s who of 19th-century high society would rub elbows and probably debate the merits of handlebar mustaches. Naming the drink after the club was a no-brainer, like naming a super spicy chili after Texas.

What is a fun fact about the Manhattan drink?

Here’s a kicker: the Manhattan was supposedly mixed up at a party thrown by Winston Churchill’s mom. Yeah, the same Churchill who bulldogged through WWII. But get this – she was likely not even in the country at the time. It’s like claiming you invented the high-five while on a solo trip to the moon. Classic cocktail myth-making!

What is a Manhattan made of?

What’s in a Manhattan? It’s like the strong, silent type of cocktail—simple but deep. You’ve got your whiskey (rye if you’re a purist, bourbon if you’re feeling rebellious), sweet vermouth for a bit of mystery, and a dash of bitters like the splash of cologne on a burly lumberjack. Oh, and don’t forget the cherry on top, because even tough guys need a sweet ending.

What are two important facts about Manhattan?

First off, the Manhattan is older than your granddad’s favorite leather chair. It’s been around since the 1870s, giving it serious street cred in the cocktail world. Secondly, it’s like the Swiss Army knife of drinks – versatile and ready for any occasion. Want it sweeter? Go for bourbon. Feeling bold? Rye it up. It’s the cocktail equivalent of a choose-your-own-adventure book, but for grown-ups.

Why are Manhattans stirred and not shaken?

Manhattans are stirred, not shaken, because we’re not trying to make a protein shake here. Stirring is like that cool, confident guy who knows he’s got it going on without making a scene. It keeps the drink clear, smooth, and suave, like the James Bond of cocktails – if James Bond preferred downtown New York over Monte Carlo.

What kind of person drinks a Manhattan?

Who drinks a Manhattan? Picture someone who’s got their life together but isn’t flashy about it. They appreciate the finer things but don’t need to broadcast it to the world. A Manhattan drinker is the guy who can change a tire in a suit and not get a single wrinkle. It’s the drink of choice for those who prefer timeless style over fleeting fads—the kind of person who can actually pull off a fedora.

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