The Manhattan cocktail has been enjoying something of a hay day the last few years. Mixologists have taken her to Italy, France and beyond with imported vermouths and exotic bitters; to breakfast thanks to the bacon craze; and even into the molecular gastronomy kitchen. (Manhattan “caviar” anyone?) But lately, that sophisticated icon has been straying alarmingly far from the stirred—Mon Dieu, never shaken!—cocktail of whiskey (rye or bourbon, please) aromatic bitters and vermouth.
The recent 2012 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Experience competition asked bartenders to craft recipes that restore honor and integrity to the Manhattan. Aria bartender Tim Weigel’s Perfectly Reserved did just that in the style of a “perfect” Manhattan on the rocks (equal parts sweet and dry vermouth), and took first place in the city for its balance of simplicity, innovation and inspiration.
Weigel’s thoughtfully chosen ingredients reflect the changes Woodford Reserve bourbon undergoes as it is made. Standing in for sweet vermouth, crème de mure imparts an underlying fruity note like that found during the fermentation of grain mash. As the celery bitters-infused ice sphere melts, it slowly releases a vegetal note like that present during distillation. And finally, the dry amontillado sherry (employed here as an answer to dry vermouth) brings out a walnut character associated with the maturation process.
Honor and integrity restored, I’d say.
In a mixing glass, combine 3 dashes San Francisco Bitters Company Comstock bitters, ½ ounce Drillaud créme de mure (blackberry) liqueur, ½ ounce Lustau dry amontillado Los Arcos sherry and 2 ounces Woodford Reserve bourbon. Add ice and stir thoroughly till chilled. Strain into a 10-ounce double Old Fashioned glass over an ice sphere flavored with The Bitter Truth celery bitters (recipe below; find sphere forms at Prepara.com/Kitchen-Gadgets/Ice-Balls). Garnish with a blackberry speared with a thin celery stick.
Celery Bitters-Infused Ice Sphere
Bring a pot of filtered water to boil. Add 3 drops of The Bitter Truth Celery Bitters into each plastic or silicone sphere mold. Add boiling water to the mold and place in the freezer.