Friday, December 08, 2006

Mixology Monday gets festive

I don't have much interest in wassail bowls, mulled wines, nogs, buttered rums or other hot drinks for the cold days and nights of winter. I'll try some of them eventually but M2 has come upon me too quickly to even begin thinking about upgrading my spice rack or working up an egg nog or Tom & Jerry batter. Maybe I'll get around to it in January or February when there's little else to do but drink. Boredom + Chicago winter + booze might well lead to killing some time separating eggs and whipping and recombining the results, etc. Then again that could also lead to experiments in home-brewed mead and marathon sessions watching the director's cut editions of the Lord of the Rings dvds. Pray for me, friends.

Instead I present to you the Manhattan Special. It may not be particularly "festive"* but it's an excellent cocktail for a chilly night and is sure to be accepted with pleasure by any guests you may be hosting this holiday season--those guests who drink the brown liquor anyway. It doesn't matter in the least that this is a chilled drink. Between the whiskey and the Benedictine it's sure to warm what needs warming and to cure what ails you. For the full restorative effect I recommend my version. I don't think the 1.5 ounces of whiskey in the version properly takes care of business. I like 2.5 ounces in the first one if I'm having more than one. 2.0 ounces is plenty for any that follow.

The Manhattan Special

2 - 2.5 oz rye whiskey
.5 oz sweet vermouth
.5 oz Benedictine
2 dashes of Angostura bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a small rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with a cherry.

Famed bartender Harry Craddock wrote that one should drink a cocktail "quickly while it's still laughing at you" but as you can see I prefer my Manhattans on the rocks. A Manhattan served "up" is traditional and is perfectly nice and you are, of course, welcome to make this drink however you choose. I wouldn't dream of making a Martini on the rocks but for some reason I prefer to linger over Manhattans. Even using a well chilled cocktail glass I usually find that a Manhattan served up will warm up before I want it to and so I make mine a little larger and a little stronger and strain them over fresh ice. Et voila, there's no need to throw it back in a big hurry. This also happens to be how my dad enjoys his CC Perfect** Manhattans. I'm sure that has something to do with my preference but I think it's mostly because for me whiskey is a, shall we say, more contemplative spirit than gin.

Tweaks: A slight alteration turns the Manhattan Special into a Preakness. The Preakness calls for .75 oz of sweet vermouth, .25 oz of Benedictine and a lemon twist as the garnish. I'd recommend the lemon twist with either version if forced to choose between the twist and a waxy, artificially flavored and colored store-bought maraschino cherry but my cocktail cherries are homemade*** so I use them without hesitation.

Benedictine, like Unicum, is another ingredient where a little goes a long way. If you're not overly fond of it you may want to start with the Preakness' ratio. I think the Manhattan Special is the better drink of the two but I certainly recommend you pour that half-ounce of Benedictine carefully. This is particularly important if your tastes lean towards milder whiskeys because the Manhattan Special is best made with a whiskey that'll put hair on your chest. Wild Turkey rye or the 100 proof Rittenhouse rye are ideal. Booker's would be a fine choice if you wanted to make this with bourbon.

A less in-your-face bourbon like Basil Hayden though, would, I think, require a substantial reduction in the amount of Benedictine used. It's smooth and tasty but if Booker's is John Wayne in Red River then Basil Hayden is Montgomery Clift. Sure, Clift is cool and all and he's the hero of the film but, dudes, seriously, what's up with that long scene with Clift and John Ireland where their characters compare six-shooters in what can only be viewed as a courtship ritual of some sort?


Happy Mixology Monday, folks.

* Other than nutmeg, perhaps, none of the spices used in the making of Benedictine are strongly affiliated with the various December holidays but the whiskey and Benedictine combo certainly strikes me as an ideal accompaniment to a roaring fireplace. See the new issue of Imbibe and the two dozen other M2 submissions for some great new, officially "festive" cocktails and punches.

** A "Perfect" Manhattan is made with a half-ounce each of sweet and dry vermouth whereas a standard Manhattan calls for one ounce of sweet vermouth. Embury prefers to call the two vermouth Manhattan a "Medium" Manhattan. I suppose that makes more sense but I'll stick with "perfect". It's the term I knew first and most bartenders know what it means. If you run into a bartender who tells you that every Manhattan he makes is perfect, well, be kind and explain what you mean. If he's grateful you've done your good deed for the day, boy scout. If you get attitude just stiff the ingrate.

You may have noticed that the Manhattan Special is nothing more than a Perfect Manhattan with Benedictine substituted for the dry vermouth. If not, well, now you know. And if you haven't already figured it out a Dry Manhattan calls for only dry vermouth. Natch. Also, as for my pop's CC Perfect Manhattan: CC = Canadian Club.

*** eGullet has a good thread covering cocktail cherries. Please feel free to ignore the inane ramblings in my posts. Or you can skip all that and go directly to the recipe I used for my current batch of cocktail cherries. Check out that recipe here. Essentially it's dried cherries reconstituted in water and sugar with lemon and orange zest and vanilla. The cherries don't look like much when they come off heat but they continue to plump up nicely overnight. I add about half the cherries and most of the syrup to yogurt and the rest go into a clean, air-tight jar with rye whiskey. I'd use maraschino liqueur but I'm too cheap to use Luxardo and I'm very happy with the cherries soaked in rye.

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At October 13, 2011 11:48 PM, Blogger B. Hurd said...

Interesting post. I conjured up a similar variant which I call Monte's Manhattan, and stumbled upon this post when double checking the net to see if in fact "everything has been done before". Here's my version:

* 2 oz. bourbon
* just under 1/4oz benedictine
* just under 1/4oz sw vermouth
* 1/8 oz. quality grenadine
* 1 dash bitters

To be honest, I use 3 oz. of bourbon and then 1/4 oz or vermouth and benedictine, and 1/8 oz grenadine, but that's too much liquor for most and far too much as far as the bar manager is concerned, so the above is my bar version.

Oh, and I agree that this is an appropriate winter warmer.

At October 13, 2011 11:51 PM, Blogger B. Hurd said...

Oh- and I don't tell people that the grenadine is in it. Trust me-- people won't guess. In the 2oz version I would go even less than 1/8 oz of grenadine, and if all you have is Rose's, then I would go with 1/8 oz simple syrup instead.

At November 23, 2011 11:19 PM, Blogger blake said...

I gotta say, the benedictine manhattan is one of the best cocktails I have ever consumed. Made with Bookers, its unparallelled. I must urge the need to stir it, as shaking causes bruising which makes it cloudy.


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