Whiskey Wednesday

Whiskey Wednesday

ImageFor Whiskey Wednesday we are going to feature the Classic Cocktail, the Manhattan.  While there are many variations, its very reasonable to say that the original Manhattan was made with Rye Whiskey.  In the 1870s when the Manhattan made it on to the social scene, there were plenty of New York distilleries, and its likely they were using rye, whereas they might have used bourbon if it were in the south.

The origin of this cocktail found on Wikipedia reads: A popular history suggests that the drink originated at the Manhattan Club in New York City in the early 1870s, where it was invented by Dr. Iain Marshall for a banquet hosted by Jennie Jerome (Lady Randolph Churchill, Winston’s mother) in honor of presidential candidate Samuel J. Tilden. The success of the banquet made the drink fashionable, later prompting several people to request the drink by referring to the name of the club where it originated—”the Manhattan cocktail”.  However, Lady Randolph was in France at the time and pregnant, so the story is likely a fiction.

Well, the fiction here, is that in 1870 women did not know NOT to drink, and even a hundred years later they were actually still smoking during pregnancy, so the tale is possibly true.

The only thing I can say, is that rye provides the bitter punch bourbon cannot deliver.  Where you taste the sweetness of bourbon, in rye whiskey, you taste a more tea-like flavor.  And, it all makes sense.  In Colonial American times, coffee and tea were once banned as imports due to political reasons and unreasonable taxes, so they started brewing rye to take the place of tea and coffee, I learned this from Walther Staib from his television series A Taste of History atasteofhistory.org/chef-walter-staib. And you can definitely taste that tea-like flavor in rye.

Canada did not have an alcohol prohibition law or period in history, so at times, especially during prohibition, Canadian whiskey might have been smuggled in and used in a Manhattan Cocktail.

So, here is the recipe for the Original Manhattan Cocktail, as close as it could be…


  • 4 Parts Rye Whiskey (in 2013 Jim Beam is a good choice)
  • 1 Part Sweet Vermouth (Italian, of course)
  • 1-2 Dashes of Angostura Bitters
  • Garnish with fresh orange rind and maraschino cherry

Now, if you don’t have sweet vermouth, you can use Campari, and if that is the case, you don’t need to use bitters since Campari is a bitter, however, a few dashes of Fee Brother’s Orange Bitters are still good.

My Favorite Manhattan Version:

  • 4 Parts Rye Whiskey
  • 1 Part Campari
  • 2 Dashes Orange Bitters
  • Maraschino cherry garnish



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