Thursday, December 09, 2010

Six Classic Cocktails-Week One-The Manhattan

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According to David Embury, author of the classic cocktail book, "The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks", there are six basic, or classic cocktails-the Manhattan, the Martini, the Sidecar, the Daiquiri, the Old Fashioned and, one I have never heard of called the Jack Rose. Embury had no ties to the liquor business and was a well-respected attorney in a Manhattan law firm, but had an intense curiosity regarding the food and drink industry. His book is casual and witty in tone, but a meticulous investigation into the fine art of the cocktail. The six classic cocktails is just one chapter among the seventeen chapters in Embury's book. Over the next six weeks of Thirsty Thursday, I will feature each classic cocktail. First comes the Manhattan, a heady, amber colored cocktail garnished with the traditional maraschino cherry, introduced to me by my son-in-law, Doug who could be a first class bartender if he so desired. He's witty like Embury, but also is very knowledgeable and proficient in the art of the cocktail.

As with many classic cocktails, legends abound regarding the origin of the Manhattan. Prevailing history suggests that the cocktail originated at the Manhattan Club in New York in early 1870's at a banquet hosted by Jenny Jerome, better known as Lady Randolph Churchill, mother of Winston Churchill. The banquet was in honor of Samuel Tilden, the democratic candidate for President in the highly disputed election of 1876. However, some say that Lady Churchill was, in fact, attending Winston's christening during that time so couldn't have possibly been the host. Another myth suggests that the cocktail was named the Manhattan after the river whose waters were brown. Still another says the Manhattan was invented in the 1860's by a bartender named Black at a bar near Houston Street.

The original Manhattan cocktail was a meld of American whiskey (probably Rye, which is traditional), Italian sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters. Today, ingredients vary as do techniques, possibly depending upon the creativity of the bartender. Here is Doug's Manhattan-

2 ounces Crown Royal whiskey
2 ounces red vermouth
4 dashes Angostura bitters
4 dashes Orange bitters
A splash of maraschino cherry juice, to taste
Garnish-maraschino cherries

In a cocktail glass, combine whiskey, vermouth, Angostura bitters, orange bitters and a splash of maraschino cherry juice, if desired. Add ice, shake and strain into a cocktail glass.  Garnish with a maraschino cherry. Serves 2.

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