The Manhattan Cocktail has been around since the end of the 19th century, although its true origin remains a contested topic. For years, it was widely believed that the drink was created by Dr Iain Marshall, a guest at Lady Randolph Churchill’s dinner party at the Manhattan Club in November 1874. However, some sceptics dispute the validity of this story due to evidence suggesting that Lady Churchill was in England during this period, pregnant with Winston.
Another story, found in a 1923 book titled, ‘Valentine’s Manual of New York’, proposes that the Manhattan cocktail was invented by a man called ‘Black’, a bartender living near Houston Street in Broadway during the 1880s.
Initially, during the end of the 19th century, the cocktail was known by a variety of names. Some called it the ‘Turf Club’ whilst others also referred to it as the ‘Jockey Club’. However, after a few decades it became most commonly went by the name of the ‘Manhattan’.
The first full written Manhattan Cocktail Recipe was published in the 1884 book, ‘The Modern Bartenders’ Guide’ by O.H. Byron. This contained two variations of the drink: the first was composed of French vermouth, angostura bitters, whisky and gum syrup; whilst the second was made of Italian vermouth, whisky, angostura bitters and curacao. Since then, the recipe has undergone a series of alterations, such as omitting the gum syrup and curacao. In addition, many variations on the original cocktail recipe now exist.
Today a traditional Manhattan Cocktail contains a 1:2 ratio of sweet vermouth to rye whisky, served ice-cold with a few dashes of angostura bitters and a maraschino cherry garnish. In addition, the drink is always stirred, not shaken, to prevent clouding and over-dilution of the drink from the ice. Although some recipes use bourbon or Canadian whisky (which became particularly popular during the prohibition when Canadian whisky was more readily available), rye whisky is more traditionally used as it adds a touch of spice to the aromas of the drink.
Some alternative variations of the classic Manhattan Cocktail include: the ‘Black Manhattan’ which replaces vermouth with Averna; the ‘Perfect Manhattan’ which contains a 1:1 ratio of vermouth to whisky, creating a slightly sweeter drink; the ‘Metropolitan’, which contains a 3:1 ratio of brandy to vermouth and a dash of simple syrup; and finally a ‘Manhattan Island’ which contains cognac, sweet vermouth, angostura bitters and maraschino liqueur.
Our version of the Manhattan cocktail replaces rye whisky with our Beeble Honey Whisky to create a ‘Honey Manhattan’. This adds a touch more sweetness to the drink, whilst still allowing the delicious complex flavours from the angostura and the vermouth to come through. We like to serve our Honey Manhattan Cocktail ice-cold in a coupe glass and garnished with an orange twill.