The Windmill Lounge, Nickel & Rye and Midnight Rambler Take Manhattan.
You're sitting at a bar, looking over the cocktail menu, assaulted with names of spices and bitters and alcohols that you don't even have the slightest goddamn clue about. You glance around woefully at your fellow bar friends, who all seem to be functioning perfectly well in this stressful situation. Panic grips your chest as the bartender saunters over to ask you what you'll be imbibing. Then you remember that article on Central Track that told you about the best cocktails in town and how different spots make them. And you realize that you're good. Because All Mixed Up has your back.
Few cocktails have experienced the constant adoration that the Manhattan has — although, given that the drink was named after one of the most famous boroughs of the world, its glowing reputation may not be all that surprising.
Of course, I have another theory: The Manhattan is so adored because of its mostly consistent recipe. This cocktail calls for a dry whiskey, a bit of sweet vermouth and a few dashes of angostura bitters. That's it.
But that doesn't mean it's not inventive. The Manhattan was one of the first drinks to call for sweet vermouth in its recipe, a choice that helped broaden the flavors of the drink beyond its stoic rye whiskey base. Even today, when you can find bourbons used in lieu of the whiskey, the taste profile remains very similar across the spectrum.
The story of we got here, though, is a little unclear. The one most often peddled around says that Jennie Jerome, Winston Churchill's mother, first had the drink made for a party she threw in 1874. And, damn, if that story doesn't read well. But, according to most accounts, Jennie was in England and about to give birth to baby Winston at the time, a fact that has since caused many to abandon this story as canon.
The real story is probably much less fantastic. In all probability, a little bar somewhere in the namesake borough was slinging this out quietly until finally it became one of the most popular drinks in the area.
And popular it remains: Every bartender you'll ever come across will have some serious respect for the Manhattan if you bring it up in conversation. And if he or she is worth her salt, it won't take him or her too long to sling you damn fine one. This, as previously noted, is a fairly simple drink.
In turn, finding new takes on the old recipe can prove quite the experience. Not everyone can improve upon the tried-and-true history of the Manhattan. Those who can deserve your utmost respect.
Here, we tip our hats to three such barkeeps and their unique takes on the classic.
The Perfect Prescription.
The completion of the Midnight Rambler in the basement of the Joule in downtown essentially concluded the most recent spate of renovations to the stylish hotel. And the Rambler is the epitome of style: The innards of the space seem like the kind of place where Ron Burgundy would drink; there's wood paneling everywhere, leather couches, even a nude portrait corner. It very much feels like a throwback to the '50s.
But the newcomer bar also has some great talent behind its cocktail menu. And Chad Solomon and Christy Pope's spin on the Manhattan is one of the most unique around.
Solomon in particular knows the Manhattan well; he readily admits to being a die-hard drinker of this cocktail. And while his and Pope's so-called Perfect Prescription may not seem like it's all that rooted in the storied cocktail, Solomon says the roots of the drink indeed lie in the classic.
Still. there's more to The Perfect Prescription than rye, vermouth and bitters. Rather, this drink opts for an array of ingredients, lending to a distinct and diverse flavor profile. Rye whiskey is mixed with cognac, two types of vermouth, some Jamaican rum and then some orange and Peychaud bitters instead of the typical angostura. Once poured, Solomon then spritzes a little lemon zest on top.
Sure, it may seem complex, but it's a cocktail you won’t have any problem enjoying.
Maple Bacon Manhattan.
Nickel & Rye.
If you find yourself shying away from a good dry whiskey, Nickel & Rye makes a Manhattan even you can enjoy.
This spot's Maple Bacon Manhattan is just what its name implies. The bartenders here take a normal Manhattan and adds the flavor profile of maple and bacon into the mix. It's a breakfast cocktail if there ever was one.
But here's why it's truly interesting: Nickel & Rye has a special cask of whiskey infused with this flavor profile, and its combination of sweet maple notes with the dry-bodied whiskey makes for a drinks that you'll borderline want to chug, although we wouldn't recommend that.
We will, on the other hand, recommend that you take advantage of the bacon strip garnish and eat it with glee. It's basically the best garnish ever.
Ask any self-respecting Dallas-dwelling cocktail drinker about the Windmill Lounge and his or her heart will start to pitter-patter. Justifiably so, of course, but if there's one drink that revered barkeep Charlie Papaceno knows how to pour better than any other drink, it's a Manhattan.
Papaceno has a dozen or so variants of the Manhattan at his disposal. His drink menu boasts an entire section of them.
Our favorite of the bunch is the SOHO Manhattan. It's quite the drink: Papaceno mixes it with bourbon, Pimm's No. 1 and orange bitters. The resulting cocktail is a bit stiffer than your classic Manhattan, allowing for that bourbon to really shine. But the drink just sings as a result.
Disagree? Well, you've got 11 or so more to try.