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Local Libations: The Manhattan Local

2010 September 10

by Andrew States

Manhattan Local Ingredients

When I heard this week’s dish was going to be Moussaka, I immediately started theorizing about ouzo cocktails, some kind of summer into fall take on the traditional aperitif, garnished perhaps with citrus.  Ouzo however, is made in Greece, and I wanted my cocktail contribution to be as local as I could make it.  Permutations of moussaka have been around for centuries, it’s a cultural classic, and classic I could do.  I decided to come up with my own Manhattan.  Auspicious.  I live and work in the city.  Even the name is local.

As long as I’ve been tending bar I’ve never created my own recipe for this standard primarily because folks who drink Manhattans typically know how they want it made and aren’t shy about telling you.  Manhattans are not ordered frivolously as they are often expensive and they are all booze.  Like their pale cousin the Martini, Manhattans are not kidding around.

Manhattans are made with American whiskey, typically Rye or Bourbon.  Tuthilltown Spirits out of Gardiner New York is the state’s first distillery since prohibition and there has been a lot of positive whispering about them recently.  I went with their flagship Hudson Baby Bourbon as the base for my cocktail.  It’s not as sweet as many larger batch bourbons, which suits my palate down to the ground.  After the whiskey comes the vermouth.  There’s much debate about the kind of vermouth to use in Manhattans.  As with all cocktails, it largely comes down to preference.  Two things to keep in mind about vermouth: it’s a fortified wine so, unlike many bottles you see behind a bar, it has a shelf life.  The other thing is, a Manhattan doesn’t necessarily need vermouth, other fortified wines could be used to interesting effect.  Port is a fortified wine as are sherry, Madeira wine and Marsala wine.  I leave the experimentation to you.  For my purposes, I went with Vya Sweet Vermouth.  I’m sure in a few years there will be a New York based brand, but for now, Vya is the only American made vermouth that I know of.

Bitters are the next essential ingredient in any Manhattan and Fee Brothers is a company out of Rochester New York that makes a variety of bitters along with cordials and mixers.  I chose the rhubarb flavor, as this is commonly the very tail end of the growing season.  The final touch for any cocktail is the garnish and while many garnishes are tossed in simply to make the drink look good on the bar, if you’re serious about your drink, the garnish can be the ingredient that elevates it to perfection and balances it out.  Many people order their Manhattans with a maraschino cherry, but it’s just as proper, and in this case essential, to call for a twist of lemon.  The zest calms the booziness of the drink down to give it a graceful and easy finish.  I prefer to drink mine over ice or at least chill the glass.

Making a Manhattan Local

The Manhattan Local

Prep time: 3 minutes

Yield: 1 serving

Tools: Shaker with measuring cup and strainer, spoon, knife. You don’t necessarily need a shaker if you have another way to measure ounces, but you will need a strainer.


  • 2 oz. Hudson Baby Bourbon Whiskey
  • 1/2 oz. Vya Sweet Vermouth
  • dash of Fee Bros. Rhubarb Bitters
  • lemon peel
  • ice

Cooking Directions

  1. In a shaker, add 2 oz. Hudson Baby Bourbon Whiskey
  2. Add 1/2 oz. Vya Sweet Vermouth
  3. Add 1 dash of Fee Brothers Rhubarb Bitters
  4. Add ice to the mixing glass and stir. Don’t shake it. You’ll just make a frothy mess and it won’t taste as good.
  5. Pour over ice (or into a chilled glass).
  6. Physically twist a piece of lemon peel to express the oils and run the skin around the rim of the glass.
  7. Drop it in there and drink.


    The Manhattan Local