Twenty or thirty years ago the Manhattan was fit only for little old ladies sitting imperiously at some 24-hour paper-placemat diner on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Sticky-sweet with cheap vermouth, cloying bourbon, a dash of bitters, and a glop of nuclear-red maraschino cherry glowing at the bottom, the Manhattan seemed more suitable for embalming drinkers than refreshing them. All that has changed. The Manhattan is back, and indeed popular consciousness of bitters is now clustered around it. With lean rye whiskey at its core instead of bourbon, superb vermouth, and real maraschino cherries, it has all the makings of a masterpiece. Angostura is the de facto choice for Manhattans, but as excellent as this bitters is, there may be better options. Many good vermouths, such as Carpano Antica from Italy, Vya from California, and to a lesser degree Primitivo Quiles from Spain, all feature substantial spice notes that overlap with Angostura. Go with a leaner, less spice-driven bitters if possible. Then drop the bomb with a few dashes of chocolate bitters.
- 2 ounces rye whiskey
- 1 ounce sweet (red) vermouth (Carpano Antica or Dolin Rouge)
- 3 dashes aromatic bitters (I use Dr. Adam Elmegirab’s Boker’s, or Dandelion & Burdock)
- 2 dashes chocolate bitters
- 1 brandied cherry with stem, for garnish