After work the other day, I wanted a drink that would warm me up and encourage me to sip it slowly. There was no orange juice in the house, so an Old-Fashioned the way I like it was out, and I just wasn’t in the mood for a glass of red wine.
There was, however, a bottle of Maker’s Mark, which we keep on hand for our friend Mike Collins, an inveterate fan of Manhattans. Why not, I thought, and got out the cocktail shaker, Makers, Dolin sweet vermouth, bitters and maraschino cherries. To sweeten the basic recipe — 2 parts Makers, one part vermouth and a few drops of bitters — I added about a teaspoon of syrup from the jar of cherries. Shaken over ice and strained into a martini glass I had a eureka cocktail moment: This, I thought, is my new winter drink.
The Manhattan was “invented” sometime in the late 1800s; the exact story of its origin, however, isn’t certain. One popular and colorful tale is that it was made in in 1874 at a party for the mother of Winston Churchill, Jennie Jerome (Lady Randolph Churchill) at the Manhattan Club in New York. But that story has been debunked — at the time, Lady Randolph actually was across the pond in England and pregnant with the future prime minister.
There are several versions of the Manhattan. Some call for rye instead of bourbon; others use half dry vermouth and half sweet (this version is called a “perfect” Manhattan). The drink is served both up and on the rocks.
At The Salt Exchange in Portland, which sadly closed recently, the Manhattan pictured above was made with Makers Mark, Dolin sweet vermouth, Fernet Branca and housemade brandied cherries. I’m not a fan of Fernet Branca, much preferring the traditional Angostura bitters in my Manhattans, but since I’d like to use better cherries than the unnaturally red maraschinos from the grocery story, I’ll be headed over to Vena’s Fizz House in Portland before my own Happy Hour today. Vena’s stocks both the Luxardo brand maraschinos and Woodford Reserve bourbon cherries; the shop is at 345 Fore St., on the corner of Silver Street.
2 ounces Makers Mark bourbon
1 ounce Dolin sweet vermouth
4 dashes Angostura bitters
1 teaspoon maraschino cherry juice
Maraschino cherry for garnish
In an ice-filled cocktail shaker, pour all ingredients except for the cherry. Shake vigorously and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with the cherry.