Black Manhattan – Dark, Mysterious Averna!

Black Manhattan

I have been alternately sipping (slowly) and staring (deeply) into this brooding, black cocktail for over an hour now and I still don’t know what I want to say to you about it. .

All there is to making a Black Manhattan is to substitute Averna, a thick, sweet Italian amaro liqueur with great bitter herbal notes for the standard sweet vermouth usually called for in the classic Manhattan. This simple switcheroo changes the drink’s smooth character towards a deeper, more complex and darker place. The life metaphor here is unavoidable. If only the cannibalizing of classic cocktails with ingredient modifications would always brings about this much thought and introspection!

I much prefer the current trend of switching up classic cocktails with new ingredients to inventing unusual cocktails and drinks out of whole cloth. The horror that is a Green Donkey Show never made me think this much!

So even though the modified versions are good classics are classics for a reason and I will always return to them — but tonight’s tipple, all dressed up in its black mourning clothes has a particular meaning for me now. And it is also having the desired effect so when this one is finished I will have another.

The last few weeks have been particularly tough ones and despite my natural inclination towards the positive and cheerful, my mood lately has been as dark with sadness as this cocktail is with Averna and bourbon.

In one month we said goodbye to a dear friend as her tenacious fight to hang onto a life that had already decided to reject her finally ended. This was followed shortly thereafter with news that another good friend had voluntarily given his life away. I haven’t attended funerals so back-to-back since… that time.

Oh gosh. Lest this post get more maudlin than I intended let me assure you that I find it perfectly acceptable to feel sad.  Its just as much a part of life as laughter and I accept that without question.  So please don’t be concerned. Without sadness like this the laughter won’t be as joyful and I wouldn’t have the warm feeling of gratitude that usually follows.  I have heard it said that it is possible to feel two emotions at once — one will make the other more acute before it cures it.

So if you don’t mind, please don’t ask me to ‘snap out of it’ or ‘go outside and exercise’. Those distractions never work.  Whatever you do don’t tell me to smile when I don’t very much feel like it yet. I’ll be just fine.You’ll see.  Of course alcohol (if used responsibly) can help too.

Which leads me back to the Black Manhattan.

Actually it leads me back to my second Black Manhattan.  So despite my previous indecision about what to tell you about this drink I have can now say unequivocally that this drink is worth a second go-round. At this rate you might guess that if you make it to the end of my post you will find out if the Black Manhattan will merits a third but let me remind you that by the time anyone chooses a third cocktail for themselves he or she is no longer choosing it for reasons of taste alone and I think I’ve been very clear on my dual motives for choosing this one here.

So my opinion will no longer matter if I have a third. Warranting a second is still something of an achievement  at any rate.

G’night. (Is it hot in here?)

Black Manhattan

Black Manhattan

Black Manhattan

This is what you will need:

  • 2 ounces bourbon, because it is darker and deeper than rye.
  • 1 ounce Averna (or another Italian “amaro”)
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters or go get crazy and do 1 dash Angostura bitters and 1 dash orange bitters.
  • garnish with Luxardo cherries — or something darker.

This is how you make it:

  1. Combine first three ingredients in an ice filled cocktail shaker or glass.
  2. Shake or mix well to chill and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
  3. Garnish with cherries.

Draw the drapes, turn off the lights, and enjoy the darkness.


About Trevor Kensey

To be truthful, I don't know what “Sis. Boom. [blog!]" means either. The name implies something explosive just happened I suppose I would like it if each post would make made a small 'boom' in your day or at least a fizzle. Even though a recipe is included with every post I have a hard time calling this a "food blog" or even myself a "food blogger".

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  1. Sorry things are bleak, black, and sad. A good wallow always helps the process along.

  2. What you say about sadness is something that doesn’t get honoured much in our culture. I’m sorry there’s been so much grief for you lately. Take care.

  3. I completely agree. Being told to “cheer up” is just about the most insulting thing anyone can say to another person who is feeling real grief and sadness. Have a drink, however, is entirely appropriate. What a smart cocktail you’ve made, and then you’ve put it to such good use. January is the worst month for me, and I believe I will indulge in a Black Manhattan (or three) this weekend.

  4. Grief is such a personal thing – I don’t think anyone else but the person going through it can determine the length, depth or expression of it. Sometimes life just sucks and people need to us work through it in our own way.
    Down a drink, kick a wall – whatever it takes to help you find your peace – when you are ready to find it. Wishing you well.

  5. I’m sorry to hear you’ve been having a rough time of it lately, Trevor, but what you say is true. We all should feel things, not brush them aside and paint on a happy face.

    I do want to tell you that I looked at your photos and am just blown away. You truly have a gift. Your food photos are always great, but your artistic photos are truly inspired! And your cat is gorgeous. BTW, Braveheart is a trooper – running up & down stairs and enjoying the garden again.

  6. Beautiful post Trevor, love your photos and the mood they capture. I would love to try a Black Manhattan in such a lovely stemmed glass;-)

  7. Beautiful way to capture your mood and the libation. Cheers. Here’s to old friendships and new ones.

  8. I need to get the ingredients for this on my way home!

  9. Beautiful. I am thinking this is just the thing to get me through my remodel…