If you’ve been anywhere near the cocktail industry in the last two years, you’ve noticed that aged cocktails are having a moment. Jeffrey Morgenthaler of Clyde Common in Portland is widely credited with bringing this technique to the United States, and he certainly popularized it. We have aged whiskey at home before with pretty good results, and so we thought we would apply the same method to see if we could approximate the result one would get by barrel-aging a cocktail.
The first thing to do is make your cocktail, so we took the recipe we like for a perfect bourbon manhattan, multiplied it by four, and poured it into a bottle with some pieces of charred American oak that we got from the homebrew store in our neighborhood.
2 oz. bourbon
½ oz. sweet vermouth
½ oz. dry vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters
We let this age for ten days, then strained it twice through cheesecloth to remove any debris from the oak cubes.
Chill a martini glass and stir 3-4 ounces of the aged cocktail with ice for about 30 seconds to chill it. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry.
We cannot recommend this process highly enough. The charred oak aging smooths out the flavors of the cocktail in a really rich way. We love how we can now just pour a beautifully made manhattan at any time with no hassle. This would be great to pour for friends if you’re hosting a dinner party and don’t want the added mess of cocktail-mixing.
If you’ve been around cocktail culture over the last year or two, you’re probably aware of the “brown, bitter, and stirred” fad. Those are the characteristics of many delicious whiskey cocktails, and we found one that really typifies it in the black manhattan from John Kruusi.
1½ oz. bourbon
1 oz. amaro
Dash Angostura bitters
Stir all ingredients over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry if desired.
This drink is absolutely delicious. We are huge fans of bitter drinks, and the amaro is really the star of the show here. The original recipe calls for amaro averna, but we used a homemade amaro from a friend, which works just as well. We also chose to use Angel’s Envy because its freshness and sweetness complements the bitters beautifully. We received some samples as holiday gifts from Angel’s Envy and were thrilled to find a perfect cocktail to use it in.
(Source: rogerwilkerson, via jonwong)
By far the best seminar we attended at the Boston Cocktail Summit was I’ll Take Manhattan. The event was presented by Brother Cleve, a local bartender and cocktail consultant (and musician, composer, DJ, producer, and writer). He recently helped launch First Printer in Harvard Square and is currently working with the Colonial Tavern in Concord, MA to replicate the experience of going to a bar in colonial New England. We’re confident he’ll be pretty accurate, since he basically gave us a brief but complete history of alcohol.
We expected to learn about the Manhattan (which we did), but his cocktail history was much more thorough than that. Before we get into the evolution of the Manhattan, here are some highlights from his seminar:
- Distillation was first discovered by an Islamic person while trying to make eye
makeup. It was called alkool.
- Applejack, made by the pilgrims, was the first major spirit in the U.S.
- Vermouth was introduced to the United States around 1867/1868.
- The first dry Manhattan was introduced in 1906 in Lewis’s Mixed Drinks in Boston.
The vermouth part is obviously important here, since you need it to make a proper Manhattan. Throughout the presentation, he shared with us the original recipes of the Manhattan as it changed over time. The original version was supposedly created for a Manhattan Club party in 1874, when Lady Jennie Jerome threw a party for then New York governor Samuel Tilden. No one knows how true this story is, since Jennie Jerome was in England getting ready to give birth to Winston Churchill at the time. Other possibilities, according to Brother Cleve, is that William Mulhall of the Hoffman House or William Black, who ran a bar on the Bowery may have created it. Following are the recipes for the different Manhattans over time.
1884: How to Mix Drinks (the Bon Vivant’s Companion) by Jerry Thomas
1 oz. whiskey
1 oz. vermouth
1-2 dashes gum syrup
2-3 dashes Peruvian bitters
1891: Modern Bartender’s Guide by O. H. Byron
½ oz. whiskey
1 pony (1 oz.) French vermouth
1 dash gum syrup
3-4 dashes Angostura bitters
1905: Hoffman House Bartender’s Guide
equal parts whiskey and vermouth
1-2 dashes orange bitters
1-2 dashes curacao
1 dash gum syrup
absinthe if desired
garnish with lemon peel
1914: Drinks by Jacques Straub
2 oz. whiskey
1 oz. Italian vermouth
From there, a number of circumstances prevented people from drinking a good Manhattan, such as Prohibition, James Bond making the martini popular, and people drinking crappy cocktails in the 1970s and ’80s, until the craft cocktail movement took off again in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
Brother Cleve made us a few of these variations to sample, and the final Manhattan he made for us was the Black Manhattan.
2 oz. bourbon
1 ½ oz. Punt y Mes vermouth
½ oz. Amaro Averna
1-2 dashes Angostura bitters