Cinnamon Apple Manhattan

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This week’s #midweekmanhattan is made Christmas-appropriate through the addition of cinnamon and applejack:

  1. Add 50ml rye whiskey, 25ml applejack, 15ml cinnamon vermouth and two dashes of bitters to a mixing glass with cubed ice.
  2. Stir well and strain into a chilled coupe.
  3. Garnish with a dried apple slice and cinnamon stick.

To make the cinnamon infused vermouth, add ten cinnamon sticks to a 750ml bottle of sweet vermouth and leave to infuse for 2-3 days.

To make the apple chips:

  1. Preheat your oven to 95’C.
  2. Slice an apple into thin slices and place in a 8:1 water to lemon juice solution for half an hour (to prevent browning).
  3. Place on a baking tray and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.
  4. Bake for 1-2 hours until golden brown.

Christmas in Manhattan #2

Photo courtesy of Addison Berry, some rights reserved.

Photo courtesy of Addison Berry, some rights reserved.

Rich and red, and imbued with all of the flavours of a good Christmas postprandial, the Christmas Manhattan #2 is this week’s festive #midweekmanhattan:

  1. Add 50ml rye whiskey, 50ml of Ruby Port, 5ml of agave syrup and three dashes of Angostura bitters to a shaker of ice.
  2. Shake well and strain into a chilled coupe glass.
  3. Garnish with an amaretto cherry.

Christmas in Manhattan

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Avid readers (hello mum!) will recall that last week we started infusing the guts of a Christmas pudding in some bourbon.  One week on and the infusion was ready to be strained, filtered and decanted into a bottle:

  1. Sieve the fruit from the bourbon and press down on the fruit to express as much liquid as possible.
  2. Filter the syrupy liquid through coffee filter papers and store in a clean bottle.

This has a longer shelf life than its taste will require.  In other words you will finish it before it spoils!  My first pour with the finished bourbon was a Christmas Manhattan (I think I might have overdone it!):

  1. Combine two measures of Christmas pudding bourbon, one measure of sweet vermouth, half a measure of Christmas Mulled Cup and two dashes of Teapot bitters in a mixing glass.
  2. Add ice and stir well for sixty seconds.
  3. Double strain into a chilled coupe.
  4. Finish with a spritz of Christmas tincture.

Martinez

 

Photo courtesy of Sam Simpson

Where to begin with the Martinez – a drink about which so much has been written, so much conjectured and so little understood?

Of course many know the Martinez as the direct ancestor of the Martini (not least because of the name), but it is also cited as a sort of missing link – the crucial step between the brusque rye whiskey and cognac drinks of the mid/late 1800s and the fresher, lighter gin drinks of the early 20th century.

How much of a role as ancestor the drink can claim is uncertain – it appears to only be about five years older than its more famous relation.  But given that the Martinez was introduced in print (by O.H. Byron in The Modern Bartenders’ Guide (1884) as “same as a Manhattan, only you substitute gin for whiskey” it can clearly claim to have helped drinking society to cross from dark spirit based drinks to light.

In truth, not much is known about the history of the Martinez, or the initial form it takes.  In particular, Byron’s recipe was somewhat unhelpful as his book lists two recipes for the Manhattan and fails to specify which one the Martinez is based on.

As well as this, other bartenders from the 1800s have a claim to inventing the drink – Jerry Thomas may have been one (although the drink did not appear until the 1887 edition of his Bartender’s Guide), and some have traced the drink to Martinez. California and one Julio Richelieu who was said to have created it for a passing goldminer in 1874.

By now, your view of the Martinez may be a little clouded.  It will only become more so.  In fact it’s fair to say that today’s Martinez is more of a category of drink than a single recipe.  Ingredient by ingredient the mystery grows.  Should it be based on Genever instead of gin?  Possibly, although the first printed record calls for gin.  But which gin?  Old Tom (a sweeter variety than the now ubiquitous Dry London) was certainly popular in the late 1800s, but does a drink which combines sweet vermouth and a sweet liqueur need any more sugar?  Probably to the palate of a late-Victorian drinker.

Next, the vermouth.  Byron listed both a sweet and dry Manhattan in his 1884 guide and there is no clue as to whether his Martinez used sweet or dry vermouth.  Most recipes now call for sweet on the basis that during the late 19th century this was more common than dry, so where a recipe fails to specify it is safest to assume sweet vermouth is intended.

Finally, the ratios.  As with the Martini, tastes have changed over time, and it is fair to say that most modern bartenders have turned the original two parts sweet vermouth to one part gin recipe precisely on its head.  Of course as the drink evolves towards the modern Martini, the recipe was forced to get drier, so there is no shame in calling for a more modern version.  Personally, I make mine as follows:

  1. Add a large measure of gin, a measure of sweet vermouth, a barspoon of Maraschino and three dashes of bitters to a mixing glass of ice.
  2. Stir for sixty seconds and strain into a chilled martini glass/coupe.
  3. Garnish with either a twist of lemon or a cherry.

Sophisticated, a little bit dry and a little bit sweet too, and probably still true to some halfway-house recipe that paved the way for the classic Martini.  History in a glass.

Elderflower Manhattan

Photo courtesy of patruby83, some rights reserved.

Summer is here, and with it, our thoughts turn to clean, clear, crisp and refreshing drinks that can be savoured during those long evenings, where the sunlight lingers on the lawn, and the birds stay up late gossiping in the trees.  What place then for the #midweekmanhattan, a surly, autumnal, rich, spiced concoction that is surely best enjoyed from a leather armchair in front of a crackling log fire?

Well, my friends.  The Manhattan has another life.  Briefly alluded to in passing (see The Affinity), the manhattan can also be enjoyed as a sharp aromatic drink, the Dry Manhattan.

The Dry Manhattan owes much of its popularity to its association with Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack (although more of that another time), and can be spruced up for summer drinking with the addition of some quintessential floral summer notes; primarily elderflower.

Elderflower has a long association with the British summer, and elderflower cordial, made from sugar, water and elderberry flowers, is a staple of Famous Five style traditional picnics.  For those who look for a little more bite to accompany their cucumber sandwiches, however, a range of elderflower liqueurs can now be employed to bring that summer picnic twist to the Manhattan.

To make the Elderflower Manhattan:

  1. Add a large measure of whiskey, a measure of elderflower liqueur, half a measure of dry vermouth and two splooshes of bitters (dandelion & burdock would work well) to a shaker of ice.
  2. Shake well and double strain into a martini glass.
  3. Garnish with a cherry.

P.S.  I am keen to try this with green tea vermouth, but worry that the extra floral notes might begin to dominate the whiskey in an uncompromising manner.

Camomile Manhattan

Having taken delivery of more loose leaf tea from the jolly good fellows at Jeeves and Jericho, I spent my Friday afternoon infusing some bourbon.

This time my order from Oxford’s finest tea-mongers consisted of:

  • 65g of Earl of Grey (for Earl Grey Old Fashioneds)
  • 75g of Dales Brew (for drinking with my Yorkshire buddies)
  • 20g Camomile Blossom
  • 20g Mojito Mint

Perhaps counter-intuitively given the name, my first infusion was four teaspoons of Mojito Mint in 200ml of Jim Beam White Label for one hour to create a Peppermint Bourbon for use in Mint Juleps.

At the same time, I opted for the same ratio of Camomile to Jim Beam to create 200ml of a versatile Camomile Bourbon for use in exotic Manhattans and Whiskey Sours.

The Camomile Manhattan I tried last night was a resounding success:

  1. Add a large measure of Camomile Bourbon, a measure of sweet vermouth and a measure of triple sec to a mixing glass 3/4 full of ice.
  2. Add two splooshes of orange bitters.
  3. Stir well and strain into a cocktail glass.
  4. Garnish with a twist of orange.

Next up, once I get my hand on some decent Sherry, is La Valencia – stay tuned.

Vieux Carré

Photo courtesy of directorebeccer, some rights reserved.

The Vieux Carré, literally “old square”, is named after the French district of New Orleans where it was invented, by barman Walter Bergeron, in 1938.  Bergeron was working at the Hotel Monteleone, a spectacular Beaux-Arts style hotel, now famous for its rotating Carousel Bar.  Although the Vieux Carré pre-dates the revolving bar, something about its name or story always puts me in mind of the fun fair.

A close cousin of both the Sazerac and the Manhattan, the Vieux Carré is naturally one of my favourites and one of the few times you will see me reaching for a bottle of brandy.  The cocktail uses Benedictine as a sweet base, then combines rye whiskey and cognac, and can be served with an absinthe rinse to create a Louisiane.

To make your Vieux Carré:

  1. Take an old fashioned glass and add half a teaspoon of Benedictine, a dash of Peychaud’s, Angostura and any other bitters that takes your fancy.
  2. Add equal parts rye, cognac and sweet vermouth.
  3. Add ice and stir.
  4. Garnish with a twist of lemon.

Variations include the use of dry vermouth instead of sweet, the aforementioned absinthe rinse, and alterations to the balance of rye, cognac and vermouth.

Affinity

This week’s #midweekmanhattan recipe takes two slight twists from the classic Manhattan recipe, and mixes the concept of a Rob Roy and a Perfect Manhattan to create the Affinity.

The Affinity came to prominence in the 1920s (was that the golden age of cocktails, or what?), but can trace its roots right back to a first mention in the Washington Post for 29 October 1907:

“There’s another new cocktail on Broadway. They call it the Affinity. After drinking one, surviving experimenters declare, the horizon takes on a roseate hue, the second brings Wall street to the front and center proffering to you a quantity of glistening lamb shearings; when you’ve put away the third the green grass grows up all around birds sing in the fig trees and your affinity appears. The new ambrosia contain these ingredients: One medium teaspoonful of powdered sugar, one dash of orange bitters, one jigger of Scotch whisky and a half jigger of Italian vermouth. These are shaken in cracked ice, cocktail fashion, until thoroughly blended and cooled, then strained and quickly served.”

The classic recipe I know differs slightly, doing away with the sugar (*gasp*), and balancing out the ingredients so that we are left with:

  1. Add one measure of Scotch whisky, one measure of dry vermouth, one measure of sweet vermouth and two dashes of bitters to a mixing glass of ice.
  2. Stir well and strain into a cocktail glass.

The more modern recipe includes a twist of lemon peel (which may or may not be added as a garnish).  The result is a slightly drier, softer Manhattan with hints of honey and vanilla (although these will obviously depend on the Scotch you use).

The Affinity has also been in the news recently as a front-runner of a new trend for barrel-aged and/or bottle-aged cocktails.  This trend has been espoused by hot-ticket London bar Purl, Artesian at the Langham and one of my favourite Edinburgh bars, Bramble.

The folks at Bramble Bar have been working with the clever gents at Glemorangie to come up with a 100ml serving of this old timer, dished up in a bottle inspired by the ole’ snake oil sellers of the American midwest.  The theory is that bottle-ageing allows for greater oxidation of the combinations found in the cocktail, and produces a similar effect to the ageing of wine – producing a world of new subtleties that a bar-mixed and immediately-served drink can only aspire to.

The Bramble approach has also seen the Affinity spend some time in either American oak barrels, which imbue the maturing drink with spiced vanilla notes, or French oak barrels for a harsher less sweet finish.  Of course distillers have long known that the choice of barrel can have a significant effect on the end product, and it seems fitting that the Glenmorangie in Bramble’s aged Affinity dips in and out of both bottle and barrel before finding its way into a glass.

I haven’t made it to Bramble to experience this new sensation as yet, but have already ‘laid down’ my own to-be-aged drinks, and will report back in due course.

The Gentleman’s Agreement

Photo courtesy of Kerjsi, some rights reserved.

Stretching the boundaries of what can and cannot be considered a true Manhattan variant – in my mind anything that features whiskey and (sweet) vermouth – this week’s #midweekmanhattan is the Gentleman’s Agreement.

A sweet and overtly orange concoction, the Gentleman’s Agreement is an agreeable sort,  originally created (and named) for Jack Daniel’s ‘superpremium’ Gentleman Jack brand, but equally good with other manufacturers’ offerings:

  1. Add a measure of bourbon, a 1/2 measure of triple sec, a 1/4 measure of sweet vermouth and a dash of bitters (orange if you have it) to a mixing glass 3/4 full of ice.
  2. Stir well and strain into a martini glass.
  3. Garnish with a twist of orange peel.

The Bitter Truth

Technically a cocktail isn’t a cocktail without a dash of bitters.  Without the bitters, your bittered sling is just, well, a sling.  Bitters emerged from the apothecary shops of Venezuela and New Orleans, originally conceived as a cure for stomach maladies and other ailments and it wasn’t long til the fine men of the Royal Navy were adding a dash of bitters to their gin to produce the medicinal Pink Gin.

Now a dash of bitters is a pre-requisite of nearly every drink you’d care to mention.  So if every barman needs a bottle of bitters to hand, where to begin?

Angostura is the best-known brand, and you’ll find a bottle of this curiously mis-labelled concoction on the back bar of every drinking establishment you enter.  Named for the town of Angostura in Venezuela, these are the original cocktail bitters and as good a starting point as any. Originally made as an antimalarial for the independence fighters of 1821, Angostura’s main notes are of cinnamon and cloves and it works well in almost any cocktail, and also, allegedly as a cure for hiccups.

Beyond Angostura, Peychaud’s bitters emerged from New Orleans in around 1840.  This blend is lighter and sweeter than its Venezuelan cousin, and was originally mixed with brandy to act as a stomach tonic.  Now it is more famous for its crucial involvement in the Sazerac.  Its nutty vanilla and anise flavour means it is ideally crafted to bring out the liquorice flavour of absinthe.

Further along the scale we begin to enter the wonderful world of flavoured bitters.  These form the rank and file of tiny apothecarial bottles you find on the shelves of the finest cocktail bars.  Many are home-made, but many more come from a number of resurgent bitters manufacturers.  The third most important bitters style is orange, useful for any citrus based drink.  Other flavours for greater experimentation include rhubarb, cherry, peach, lemon, creole, chocolate, celery and dandelion & burdock.

You will find these and more at Fee Brothers, The Bitter Truth and Dr Adam Elmegirab.

Harking back to the golden age when travel was a luxury and every air passenger had access to a well-stocked all inclusive bar, young bitter upstarts, The Bitter Truth have also packaged up a marvelous taster tin of their fine aromatic delights.

Of course, let’s not pretend there’s any chance of getting a tin of these wee beauties past airport security these days, but still, let’s close our eyes and transport ourselves back to the magical era of transport for just a few minutes.

The tin contains 20ml bottles of the Celery, Orange, Creole, Old Time Aromatic and Jerry Thomas’ Own Decanter Bitters along with a recipe card which gives a little background and a recommendation for each brew.

Old Time Aromatic Bitters – A strong combination of cinnamon and gingerbread gives way to a hint of aniseed, and is recommended for the Manhattan.

Orange Bitters – A bitter orange and nutmeg concoction which the fine gents at The Bitter Truth recommend for your Dry Martini.

Creole Bitters – The classic Peychaud’s nose of bitter sweet aniseed emenates from this bottle, and the recommendation is that you add it to the Improved Brandy cocktail (Brandy, Absinthe, bitters and sugar).

Celery Bitters – Powerful celery and ginger notes dominate this brew, and the suggestion is that this should replace celery salt in your next Bloody Mary.

Jerry Thomas’ Own Decanter Bitters – The closest match to Angostura, these have a rich fruity nose with an air of cinnamon.  A fine tribute to the legend, Jerry Thomas, and ideal for your Old Fashioned.

A grand addition to any home bar, these wee gems open up a world of possibility for your cocktail concoctions.  Travel the world of fine drinking without leaving your sofa.