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. I still don’t know what I want to say to you about it. Its dense gravity pulls in all my thoughts and will let none of them escape.

To make a Black Manhattan all you need to do is substitute Averna, a thick, sweet Italian amaro liqueur with great bitter herbal notes , for the sweet vermouth usually called for in a classic Manhattan. This simple switcheroo alters the drink’s usual smooth character and takes it towards a deeper, darker, more complex place. This drink has got to be a metaphor for something going on in my life right now but even that thought, especially that thought, cannot escape its grasp.

I only wish all objects of the recent trend toward cannibalization of classic cocktails with ingredient modifications would bring about results like this! I much prefer inventing unusual cocktails and drinks out of whole cloth. The horror that is a Green Donkey Show never made me think this much!

Even though some modified versions are good,  classics are classics for a reason and I will always prefer them — tonight’s tipple however, all dressed up in its black mourning clothes, has a particular meaning for me tonight. If only it would let me know it.  (It is also having the desired effect, so when this one is finished I will have another.)

These last few weeks have been particularly tough ones so despite my natural inclination towards the positive and cheerful, my mood lately has been as dark with sadness as this cocktail has been made dark in color with its combination of Averna and bourbon.

In this last month we said goodbye to a dear friend, her tenacious fight to hang onto a life that had already decided to reject her had finally ended.  Shortly thereafter news arrived that another good friend had voluntarily given his life away. Two funerals in the same week.  I haven’t attended funerals so back-to-back since… well, that time in the 80’s.

Oh gosh!  Lest this post get even more maudlin than I had intended it to be let me assure you that I find it perfectly acceptable to feel sad.  Its just as much a part of life as laughter.  I accept this without question.  Please don’t be concerned. Without sadness laughter just wouldn’t be as joyful and I wouldn’t have the same warm feeling of gratitude that always follows it.  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’. These are distractions and they never cure saddness.  Whatever you do don’t tell me to smile because I don’t feel like it, yet. I’ll be just fine. You’ll see. Of course alcohol (if used responsibly) can help too.

Which leads me once again back to the Black Manhattan…

Truthfully, it leads me back to my second Black Manhattan.  So despite my previous uncertainty regarding what it was I wanted to tell you about this drink, I know now I can at least say unequivocally that this drink is worth a second go-round. Perhaps already you realize that if you make it to the end of my post you could find out if the Black Manhattan will merit a third?  (By the time anyone chooses a third cocktail he or she is no longer choosing it for reasons of taste alone. I think I’ve been very clear on my motives for choosing this one here.)

In the meantime, 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…

  10. My suggestion, smoke the glass. This takes it to another level of dark delicious complexity.