The Perfect Manhattan is one of the all-time great cocktails, with a perfect balance of dry and sweet. Ice down your martini glasses and shake up this delicious classic!
Hi I’m Eddie, Lisa’s husband. Lisa asked me to guest post about my favorite cocktail: the Perfect Manhattan.
Ironically, the first time I ever had a Manhattan was in London. I was there on business, staying at a fantastic boutique hotel called Dukes in Mayfair. My colleague and I had just finished negotiating a deal and we were celebrating with a drink. He ordered a Manhattan and I went along for the ride. I was so impressed by the delicious, complex combination of flavors that I ordered another one and watched the bartender make it. He was a craftsman and watching him work made me appreciate the art of making a truly great cocktail.
Back in the US, I ordered a number of Manhattans in different places over the next several years, but couldn’t replicate the experience from Dukes – I felt like something was missing. I wondered if perhaps the Dukes Manhattan had a special place in my heart because it was my first. Then one night a friend told me that his favorite drink was a Perfect Manhattan. I assumed at first that he was speaking in superlative terms but this wasn’t the case. He explained that while a traditional Manhattan uses only sweet Vermouth, a Perfect Manhattan calls for half sweet and half dry Vermouth resulting in a “perfect” balance of dry and sweet. This became my new favorite drink and the one I had been searching for since Dukes.
I’ve been finessing and tweaking this cocktail for years and I’m now ready to share my recipe and methodology for making the perfect Perfect Manhattan.
Essentially, making a Manhattan is very straightforward: rye or bourbon with vermouth and a dash of bitters served with a cherry, the peel from some citrus fruit or both. As with any drink, the difference between good and great is all about specific ingredients, proportions and technique.
I have experimented with both bourbon and rye, and I’ve come down on the side of bourbon. I find rye to be too harsh but clearly this is a matter of personal taste. I acknowledge in advance that purists will insist on rye and please feel free to use rye if that is your view – just let me have my bourbon. I have found that Makers Mark works best and that little is gained by going higher end. My proportions are two parts bourbon, half part dry vermouth, half part sweet vermouth and two dashes of Angostura bitters.
For citrus, I stumbled upon grapefruit one night when I couldn’t find an orange and have been using it ever since. From the bartender at Dukes, I learned how to mist the top of the drink by squeezing the outside of the peel over the surface. Then I rub the inside of the peel around the rim to flavor the glass.
I am a believer that the cherry really matters. Please, if you can, avoid the type of maraschino cherries out of the local supermarket that go on the top of ice cream sundaes and burst in your mouth like water balloons. Instead, invest in the real deal – I say invest because they are not cheap. Luxardo is a brand that you can usually find at high-end liquor stores or specialty food shops. They go for about $20 a jar. I promise it is a whole other experience.
One final ingredient is temperature. I am obsessed with serving this drink as cold as possible. I ice down the glasses in advance and I stir (vs shake) the ingredients for “a little longer than you think” before serving. I hope you enjoy!
PS I highly recommend the Dukes bar if you ever find yourself in West London looking for a great cocktail!
- 4 ounces Maker's Mark Bourbon - 2 parts
- 1 ounce sweet vermouth - ½ part
- 1 ounce dry vermouth - ½ part
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- Grapefruit peel, approximately 1 inch by 2 inches (substitute orange peel for a sweeter accent)
- 1 maraschino cherry - I recommend Luxardo
- Fill martini glass with ice cubes and pour cold water to the brim. Set aside to chill for 5 minutes or so. (or chill glass in the freezer for 10 minutes)
- Fill shaker with 1 cup of ice cubes. Pour in bourbon, vermouths and bitters. Stir with a spoon for about 20 seconds to fully chill. Pour ice water out of the chilled martini glass, and shake excess water off. Cover martini shaker with strainer top and pour contents into the chilled glass. Add cherry.
- Hold grapefruit peel just above the surface of the drink, skin-side-down.Crease it in a few places to release a mist of grapefruit oil into the drink. Rub the pith side around the rim. Serve Immediately.
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