It seems somehow correct that rye whiskey would serve as the traditional foundation for a “Manhattan”. A good rye whiskey is solid yet brash, fortifying yet with the complexity of a good wine. The intensity of a good rye whiskey screams to be noticed. Just like a lot of New Yorkers.
I am nearly certain that whomever first coined the phrase “give me a good, stiff drink” was referring to a shot of rye whiskey. But if you mix that shot of rye with sweet vermouth and a dash of bitters that bracing slap across the face becomes a relaxing, meditative massage. It becomes a Manhattan.
Nobody will argue that this is one fine cocktail but there is room for variety in its execution — much like the art of massage itself. The so-called purists will never approve of Manhattans made with bourbon, its sweeter and more rounded cousin, but these types would also never think twice about perverting the drink with a goopy maraschino cherry. (A garnish I never quite believed belonged in there anyway.)
Big Apple Manhattan
This version rounds the bourbon out even further with a knock of apple brandy’s caramel, apples and spice notes and it skips the maraschino cherry altogether earning it a few bonus points with me. I can’t tell you why but I seem to enjoy this drink when it is shaken and not stirred. HIghly irregular. But so are some New Yorkers. And I like ‘em that way.