A Challenge …

by KeithP on November 1, 2010

It goes without saying, yet again and again and again and … that I absolutely love the Manhattan cocktail (heck even our most recent project-o-fun is Manhattan Cocktail-based).  As much as I may swoon over my beloved “water of life” and other whiskies, the ultimate of ultimate’s for me is that humble, complex, rich and decadently satisfying drink — damn, as I’m writing this I am salivating just thinking of sipping on one or one of its variants … can I get anyone a Greenpoint, a Red Hook or the Slope?

So there I was minding my own business, catching up on Darcy’s musings several weeks back when his post titled “Manhattan Cocktail Redux” caught my wondering eyes.  First, it is a great encapsulation of this awesome drink. Second, and more importantly, Darcy linked to a contest being sponsored by Woodford Reserve and Esquire Magazine looking for the ultimate Manhattan Cocktail recipe (utilizing Woodford of course) called “Craft the Ultimate Manhattan”.

My fertile mind sprang, ok stumbled, into action and I began to reminisce about my best friend the Manhattan, the various riffs of said lovely drink that I have sampled and then ask myself what I would do to create a new, interesting variant?  Clearly recognizing that the words creative and interesting never collide in the same sentence when it comes to my attempts at drink creation I thought for a little bit about the subject, jotted down some notes and then basically walked away from the idea. Low and behold, out of the blue, the Godfather struck sending me a link to a NY Post article from those same several Sunday’s past that focused on some Manhattan variations by NYC mixologists as well as reference to that Woodford Manhattan cocktail challenge.  Aside from my snickering at the author’s attempt to call Fee Brothers bitters “the Bentley of bitters,” the article kicked my inspiration meter into high gear and after procuring a bottle of the Woodford reached for my prior Manhattan notes and set out to think up a new variant.

What follows are my several attempts at creating a new variant, my tasting notes and commentary on each including my final offering.

Note: theSpeakista has made every attempt to research these recipes to see if they already exist.  I have yet to find any proof that these exact recipes do exist. While there is nothing too grand in my several samples show below I would if possible, to the extent it is possible, give credit where credit is due so if you know of the below recipes already then please let me know?

theSpeakista’s Manhattan Variant #1:

Ingredients:  2 1/2 oz Woodford Reserve Bourbon + 3/4 oz Dolin Blanc + 3/4 oz Ramazzotti Amaro + 1 barspoon of peach preserves + 2 dashes of the Bitter Truth Aromatic bitters + 2 dashes of Fee Brothers Peach bitters (garnished with a Luxardo brand cherry)

Tasting Notes: First out of the gate was an attempt at a Perfect Manhattan variant; trying to provide a little richness and spice tamed not by a drying agent but rather a blended dry/sweetening agent.  The peach preserves add a tad more sweetness but their flavor is muted behind the other characters and the bourbon is a bit over powered in this mixture. Not a bad effort but even with a few tweaks made to the proportions (final recipe shown above) I found that this formulation did not really highlight the components as a single, cohesive drink.

theSpeakista’s Manhattan Variant #2:

Ingredients:  2 oz Woodford Reserve Bourbon + 1/2 oz Dolin Rouge + 1/2 oz Ramazzotti Amaro + 1 barspoon of Cherry Heering + 2 dashes of the Bitter Truth Mole bitters (garnished with a flamed orange peel)

Tasting Notes: I love the flavor of chocolate and cherries and I love them together it was these flavor profiles that served as the original inspiration behind this variation.  Utilizing the Ramazzotti again, this variant sought to tame its bitter characteristics with a somewhat lighter, less herbaceous sweet vermouth, in this case the lovely Dolin Rouge.  This drink performed well — a nice sweetness from the brandy and the vermouth together with their underlying fruit flavors provided a nice backdrop for the bourbon to peak through.  Notes of cherry hang on at the end as do the typical lingering characteristics of the bitters which are accentuated by the amaro.  I really enjoyed this variation but I still felt as though I was not yet finished finding my finale so on we pressed with another attempt.

theSpeakista’s Manhattan Variant #3:

Ingredients:  2 oz Woodford Reserve Bourbon + 3/4 oz Dolin Rouge + 1/2 oz Aperol + 2 dashes of Regan’s Orange bitters (garnished with an orange peel)

Tasting Notes: Oh there we are … orange! Charred, spicy, oaky sweetness!  Orange! Bitters!  It is all here and if I do say so, rather nicely balanced.  This variant is perfect for, well, a night like tonight!

So there you have it, three attempts at creating a new Manhattan variant.  “Hey, buddy, look below, you’ve still got one left!!”  Oh, yeah … last but not least, and it was interesting that while I thoroughly enjoyed Variant #3, I felt as though I had one last attempt in me and so it was this final go that turned out to be the one I enjoyed the most.

theSpeakista’s Manhattan Final Variation – The Upper East Side Manhattan
Recipe created (I think) by theSpeakista

•    2 1/2 oz Woodford Reserve bourbon
•    1 oz Dolin Rouge
•    1/4 oz St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
•    1 barspoon black currant jam
•    2 dashes of the Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters
Garnish: orange peel
Glass: champagne coupe or cocktail glass
Tools: mixing glass, barspoon, a julep strainer and a fine mesh strainer

Assembly: Combine all of the ingredients in the mixing glass and stir the mixture (including breaking up some of the currants in the jam) to incorporate the jam. Add cracked and non-cracked ice to the glass and stir for at least 30 seconds until well chilled, double strain the mixture into the serving glass and garnish as noted.

The verdict: The drink has a nice, deep dark mahogany color and smells of rich floral, fruity sweetness.  Equally rich on the palate, the drink has a really nice mouth feel to it with an unexpected complexity in the flavor profile.  The disparate parts play off of one another nicely with rich fruity sweetness against the bourbon notes that key off the equally powerful allspice dram.  The mixture seems to be held in nice balance with the addition of a somewhat quirky ingredient – the black currant jam.  Why black currant jam you ask?  Well we had it in the cupboard and I thought … “what the heck.”

There you have it — theSpeakista’s entry into the Woodford Reserve challenge.

theSpeakista asks:

1. Ah, Manhattan’s … any cool creations pop up in your home mixology efforts?

2. What do you think of the above list of variants?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

DJ HawaiianShirt November 2, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Most delicious experimentation EVER.

On the subject of Manhattan variations, I wasn’t sure if you saw it, but I came up with one a few years ago and named it the Old Knoxville. I really want you to try it, if you have the ingredients for it. It’s probably my original cocktail about which I’m most proud.


KeithP November 3, 2010 at 7:40 pm

I had seen this — and then it hit me, Fernet Branca!! the few times I have tried this it has not been to my liking so I have held off buying a bottle (which is odd for me as i buy just about every odd bottle i can). Could have my arm twisted though … aside from your tasty creation, what are some other good suggestions for the Fernet?

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