Story and Photos by Maggie Kimberl
In Kentucky, every cocktail is a Bourbon cocktail. We’ve co-opted the Moscow Mule, replaced the vodka with Bourbon, and now it’s a Kentucky Mule. In Louisville, our official cocktail is the Old Fashioned, a refreshing Bourbon cocktail that is on the menu in almost every restaurant and which was in fact invented in Louisville. Here the Manhattan is almost always a Bourbon cocktail, though even Bourbon lovers like to substitute rye whiskey once in a while.
The Manhattan was, by most accounts, invented in Manhattan. According to Albert Schmid, “The Manhattan is a cousin of the Martini; early recipes for the Martini included vermouth and bitters; therefore the Manhattan is similar to the Martini except for its main ingredient: the Manhattan has whiskey and the original Martini has gin.” It is one of the six basic cocktails on which all other cocktails are based.
At Match Cigar Bar in New Albany, Indiana, bar tender Jeremiah Griffee prepares one of his favorite variations of a Manhattan cocktail, The Perfect Manhattan. In a traditional Manhattan cocktail there is only sweet vermouth, while in The Perfect Manhattan there is some combination of both sweet and dry vermouth.
“What I think puts people off from a traditional Manhattan is they cloying mouthfeel that comes from the sweet vermouth. The dry vermouth leaves the sweetness but balances out the cloying mouthfeel. You can still taste the rye and you can still taste the sweet vermouth,” he says.
In Griffee’s version of the cocktail, he likes to use rye instead of Bourbon, a popular option with many professional bar tenders and mixologists. In fact, rye whiskey was largely revived by the craft cocktail boom that came on the heels of the Bourbon boom, bringing this almost extinct cousin of Bourbon whiskey back from its deathbed. Industry leaders such as Wild Turkey and Jim Beam kept rye whiskey alive for the heritage customers, and craft cocktail makers in turn brought it back to the forefront of cocktail popularity.
It’s notable that Griffee stirs his Manhattans, another piece of the puzzle about which there are often heated debates. Historically the Manhattan cocktail was supposed to be shaken, but many bar tenders and mixologists have strong opinions otherwise, and indeed more recent cocktail manuals do call for the Manhattan to be stirred.
Lastly, Griffee prefers to serve his Manhattans in a coupe glass, explaining, “I like the aesthetics of the coupe. There’s something classy about [it].” Oftentimes the Manhattan is also served in a Martini glass, and sometimes even in a rocks glass when the customer prefers it on the rocks.
Match Cigar Bar’s Jeremiah Griffee’s Perfect Manhattan:
• 2 oz Ezra Brooks Rye Whiskey
• ¾ oz Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
• ¼ oz Lillet Blanc
• 4 dashes Angostura Bitters
• 1-2 dashes Angostura Orange Bitters
• Flamed Orange Peel
• 1 Luxardo cherry
In stirring vessel add bitters, vermouths, and then rye. Scoop ice into vessel and stir. Strain with a Hawthorne strainer into a coupe glass with a Luxardo cherry in it and flame an orange peel over top.