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Making a Truly Decent Manhattan

Posted on Posted in Culinary Science, Recipes

This may make me an old man, but my favorite cocktails are a Gin and Tonic and a Bourbon-based Manhattan.  Restaurants, however, have made a craft out of making bad Manhattans.  They usually have too much Vermouth, they’re usually shaken instead of stirred, and sometimes they come in sad little low ball glasses, which is dumb because the best part of drinking a Manhattan is the martini glass.  And for some reason, all but the best bartenders seem to impart a watered-down heat upon the drink that makes it very not smooth and enjoyable.  So I took matters in to my own hands.

First, I built a bar.  No kidding.  This is not an integral part of the recipe, but it was an integral part of making my kitchen slightly more useful.  I can only reach the bottom shelf of my cabinets, so all my glasses were precariously stacked on top of one another and I knew at some point I’d end up breaking one of my precious Harpoon glasses.  If I need tupperware or my cocktail shaker from the top shelf, well, then I have to take my life into my hands and climb on the counter.  So I moved my glasses:


I got just a cheap little cabinet from Target, built it myself, and stuck all the glasses and bar gizmos inside.  Now they’re within my reach!  An additional benefit was moving my wine rack off my teeny counters and moving the rest of my liquor from the TV stand to the top of the bar.  I’d say it looks pretty good!!

Now for the actual recipe.  The ingredients are simple- just Bourbon (or whiskey or rye), sweet vermouth, and bitters.  I already had a bottle of Woodford Bourbon, which is my favorite (and not too pricey), and I picked up Rossi vermouth and Angostura bitters from Wegmans for under $10.

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You’ll also need a shaker full of ice (my shaker is actually a mason jar with the herb-shaker lid… it cost $4 and can hold enough iced and liquid for 4 drinks!) and a martini glass.  You could also use a maraschino cherry for garnish, but… why???


For each drink, pour:

  • 2 oz bourbon
  • .75 oz sweet vermouth (note: this is 25% less than most recipes)
  • 3 dashes bitters (note: some pours out when you turn the bottle upside-down.  This counts as a dash, otherwise things get very, well, bitter.)

Into the shaker with plenty of ice.


Next, stir– don’t shake.  According to the expert (my boyfriend), that melts the ice too quickly and dilutes the drink, which is the likely cause of the watered-down burn that I cited earlier.  I’d say he’s right.  To stir, stick a spoon (or swizzle stick/bar spoon, ideally) between the ice and the edge of the mason jar.  Rotate the spoon around the edge of the  shaker.  If you have enough ice (which you’d better!), the spoon will rotate the ice as a whole, not push it around in the liquid.  This chills the drink quickly with minimal ice movement (movement=dilution and dilution=yuck).


Pour into a martini glass (preferably chilled), and enjoy!  If you want to have more fun, here are some more variations– remember to go light on the vermouth!  You can always taste it and add more if you want.IMG_0275

A Truly Decent Manhattan

A Truly Decent Manhattan


  • 2 oz bourbon
  • 3/4 oz sweet vermouth
  • 3 dashes bitters
  • Ice


  1. Put all ingredients into a shaker. Stir until chilled.
  2. Pour into a martini glass.

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