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The Perfect Manhattan

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Sweet and dry vermouth provides the perfect balance of tartness and sweetness in this sublime historic cocktail. In addition to being the first cocktail Ada Coleman, the “Queen of Mixers,” ever made, the Manhattan is one of the most famous classic cocktails in the world. Historians have gone to great lengths, and amazing bars, to try and track down the origins of this magnificent cocktail, but the true origin of this magnificent cocktail is largely unknown. The one thing most historians agree on is that it was probably invented in New York City.

According to one legend, Lady Randolph Churchill (Jenny Spencer-Churchill, the future-mother of Winston Churchill) a New York native, ordered the staff at The Manhattan Club to come up with a cocktail for a banquet she was throwing. The banquet was to honor newly elected New York Governor, Samuel J. Tilden. After a lovely evening of libations, the cocktail became a classic. However, Winston Churchill claims that during this supposed discovery, his mother was actually in Paris and quite pregnant with the future prime minister of England. Another source, claims that the cocktail was invented by an un-renowned bartender named Black, in a bar on Broadway in the 1860s. No matter the source of this cocktail, its overnight success has lasted through the decades, and its decadent, spirit-forward flavor is something to be celebrated.

In my first few weeks tending bar, I operated in a “fake it till you make it” mindset. I was working three jobs at the time and fancied myself quite the mixologist, but what I had in confidence, I lacked in actual experience. So when a regular stepped up to the bar and ordered a “Perfect” Manhattan I took that as a challenge, to marry the best sweet vermouth with the best whiskey. I found the perfect ice cubes for the mixing pitcher and I measured 2 parts whiskey to 1 part vermouth exactly. I even opened a new bottle of angostura bitters. When I slid the drink towards the customer, he pointed to a row of dry vermouth behind me, and raised his eyebrows “Aren’t you forgetting something?” 

As I then discovered during a 10-minute lecture, “perfect” in the cocktail world means that it includes the same ratio of dry vermouth to sweet vermouth. Much like the upcoming equinox, this equilibrium of dry and sweet creates a tantalizing balance of flavor that makes you want to savor a Perfect Manhattan and makes it difficult to do so. It is a fact that a truly great Manhattan is a union between complementary bitters, vermouth, and whiskey, but a Perfect Manhattan walks the line between tart and sweet. Whether you’re celebrating your work-life balance, walking the tightrope of modern-day dating, or finding harmony in this new season of life, a Perfect Manhattan might be the perfect cocktail.

The Manhattan

Prep Time: 5 min






Pro Tips

  • This cocktail’s taste truly depends on the ingredients you are using to make it. The Carpano Antica I chose for its hints of vanilla, citrus, and dates, which perfectly compliment the Koval rye’s notes of maple syrup and mellow baking spices. Then the Vya extra dry balances it all out with notes of fresh flowers and citrus. 
  • To float an ingredient, place a bar spoon on the top of the liquid with the flat side facing down. Pour the ingredient over the back of the bar spoon, this will break the impact and allow the liquid to sit on top of the cocktail.

Sustainable Spirits

Koval Distillery makes one of my favorite rye whiskeys and some of my favorite sustainable spirits. All of their spirits are organic from grain to bottle, as well as, certified Kosher. The water they use in their spirits comes straight from Lake Michigan where it is then charcoal filtered and combined with their 100 percent organic Midwestern grains, distilled and bottled onsite at their Chicago Distillery. Even the enzymes and yeast used in the fermentation process are certified organic. Their copper pot still, was designed by some of the best minds in the industry to be as energy-efficient as possible, and Koval partners with local nonprofits like the Green Chicago Restaurant Coalition to make the food service industry as sustainable as possible. Established in the 1800s, Koval proves that a commitment to craft, quality, and sustainability can stand the test of time.

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