The Manhattan’s harmony of bitters, sweet vermouth and sharp, musky whiskey has been said to even rival that existing between gin and tonic water, at least according to the pen of David Wondrich, who also suggests it’s the only cocktail that can slug it out toe-to-toe with the Martini. And we believe him.
Yet, one of the benefits to knowing your classic cocktails is being able to pinpoint precisely what your taste buds are craving. Whether it’s an exact wetness to your Martini, the difference between a Chicago Fizz to a Japanese Fizz or the lime to sugar ratio in your Daiquiri, a certain cocktail at the very moment you begin to crave it will taste like the best drink of your life.
Swapping out one of the Manhattan’s simple elements can make for spicier riffs, bitter twists and modern classics. Here are nine twists to satisfy even the strangest of Manhattan-like cravings.
The Manhattan isn’t the only one of New York’s five boroughs to have a drink named after it, but it was the first and the others, including the Bronx and the Queens, descended from it. However it was the Brooklyn which became popular. It’s a heady mix of rye whiskey, which adds plenty of body and spice, dry vermouth, amer picon (a bitter orange liqueur) and maraschino (a cherry liqueur).
A modern classic invented by a former NY Milk & Honey bartender, Enzo Errico. It strikes a perfect balance between bracingly bitter from its Punt e Mes (an orange bitter aperitif with quinine), spice from its base of rye whiskey and sweetness from maraschino. The main difference from this and the Brooklyn is the added cherry liqueur, the lack of vermouth and the bittersweetness from Punt e Mes. It’s a classic bartender’s drink, with plenty of oomph and complexity.
A mix of Scotch whisky, sweet vermouth and bitters this is simple spirit twist on the Manhattan. When you use the sweeter, mellow bourbon for the Manhattan, the whiskey sinks right into the mixture, whereas Scotch whisky – aged more slowly thanks to its cooler climes and second use barrels – tends to stand apart in cocktails. It’s leaner and has an added complexity.
Just as the Scots have their version of the drink, so too do the Canadians. This bracing drink combines Canadian whisky, Fernet Branca, sugar and bitters and certainly packs a punch.
Invented by another former NY Milk & Honey bartender, Michael McIlroy. This twist combines rye whisky, yellow Chartreuse, Punt e Mes and bitters. The addition of the yellow Chartreuse brings sweet herbal notes into play with the bitter and spicey flavours.
You’d think with the simple swap of cognac for the bourbon, that this was a decidedly French twist but it is in fact named for the Ivy League school. Back in the day most of those schools had signature cocktails, ones which were neat, sharp and tasty. The Harvard was originally served with a dash of soda water, producing a drier and more refreshing drink but nowadays it’s enjoyed straight up.
This twist combines Irish whiskey, green Chartreuse and sweet vermouth , all of which results in a rich, herbaceous cocktail with notes of mint, caraway and basil. However if you looking for a drink that’ll truly let a beautiful Irish whiskey shine, the simpler Emerald which is direct swap of whiskies is delightfully smooth and mellow.
Debating between a Negroni and a Manhattan? The Boulevardier will serve all your bitter whiskey needs. This spirit-heavy Manhattan twist keeps the bourbon and also calls for one measure of Campari and one of sweet vermouth. It’s punchy, less herbaceous and has a deeper complexity, it’s also a wonderfully bitter pick-me-up for bourbon fans.
This cocktail is Audrey Saunders’ homage to a New York neighbourhood and uses Italian products such as sweet vermouth and Cynar, an artichoke amaro, all combined with the spicy rye whisky to bring about a delicious modern classic.