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Issue 45 - A drink not to mess with

Whisky Magazine Issue 45
January 2005


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A drink not to mess with

In the first of a new series on great whisky cocktails, Ian Wisniewski looks at The Manhattan

Unlike so many ornate, fruity cocktails that are mere fashion accessories for the cocktail brigade, no one toys with a Manhattan. It's way beyond that, being a quintessential whisky cocktail with genuine pedigree and a sophisticated flavour.

The Manhattan's origins span various options, though a favourite among cocktail archivists stipulates New York, in 1874. That's when Lady Randolph Churchill (nee Jenny Jerome, a Manhattan socialite, who subsequently gave birth to Sir Winston Churchill), hosted a banquet to celebrate the election of Samuel Tilden as governor of New York.

As this was definitely a major event, an exciting new cocktail was required to provide a victory toast. And as the club's bartenders were known for their creativity, that wasn't going to be a problem.

One bartender's experiments, with rye whisky, red vermouth and a dash of orange bitters, provided a contender. But it all depended on the governor's verdict. He loved it! The bartender (history
doesn't record the individual's name) made plenty more, so that all the guests could enjoy it, and named this cocktail after the Manhattan Club.

The club was a cool place for the elite to hang out, which meant the bartenders catered to a discerning crowd. This also ensured that the club was the source of various new cocktails, though only the Manhattan transcended its original era, and location, to become an international classic.

Created using rye whiskey, the Manhattan has also been adopted by bourbon, and the ...

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