The Cocktail Diaries: A Manhattan Primer

This post is unintentionally well-timed, because I think a lot of Portlanders have been making their way through their whiskey and bourbon the past few days. We are SNOWED. IN, and we have been for days. By my measurements we have at least 8 inches of snow. But when the freezing rain began on Saturday, I quit measuring. Everything was sporadically shutting down for the first two days, but when the freezing rain started, everything closed down. Even public transit – the overhead lines that the MAX uses were covered in ice and on Saturday night the trains just stopped.

Today we saw the beginning of the end. Things were already starting to thaw as we walked the 3/4 mile to the grocery store around lunchtime. Our driveway is now clear and dry, and the main roads were starting to look slushy but bearable on our walk earlier. It has been hard to stay in for so long! I’ve seen a lot of Instagrams of cocktails. Tomorrow will be another snow day for local schools, so for those of you who are going stir-crazy at home, can I suggest digging into one of the most classic drinks of all time?

Classic Manhattans: A Primer | PDXfoodlove

Why do I say that? One big reason, besides the obvious ubiquity: Manhattans predate Prohibition. Before the dark times, cocktails and bitters flourished. But not everything survived. The Prohibition movement is responsible for untold lost recipes of cocktails, bitters and more. When you drink a Manhattan, you are truly tasting early American cocktail culture.

Homemade Bitters | PDXfoodlove

And bitters are a big part of that. I’m proud to say that I just finished two batches of my own – they involve a LOT of citrus, some 100 proof vodka, and some unusual herbs, spices and barks.

Classic Manhattans: A Primer | PDXfoodlove

The classic Manhattan will contain whiskey, sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters. I like a little spin on that – I like to use two kinds in my Manhattan – my house orange bitters, and of course, Angostura.

Classic Manhattans: A Primer | PDXfoodlove

Another quick note – I’ve been using bourbon in mine. Bourbon is not required. Traditionally, an American whiskey is used.

Classic Manhattans: A Primer | PDXfoodlove

My favorite thing about this particular recipe is the zing from the orange bitters, and from rubbing the orange peel around the rim of the glass before adding it to the drink.

Here’s what you need:
2 oz. whiskey or bourbon
1 oz. sweet vermouth
dash of Angostura bitters
dash of orange bitters
orange peel (or, for funsies, a blood orange peel, which I’ve used here)
maraschino cherry

Classic Manhattans: A Primer | PDXfoodlove

In a mixing glass filled with ice (this can be a traditional one, or a wide-mouth mason jar, or a pint glass), pour the spirits and bitters in over the ice. Stir until chilled and strain into a highball glass with ice, or into a coupe if you’d like it served up.

Take the outside of your orange peel and rub it around the rim of the glass, then drop the peel and the cherry into the drink. Enjoy!

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