It is time again for Mixology Monday, the online monthly cocktail party! This month, our esteemed ringleader, Fred Yarm of Cocktail Virgin steps in to host with the theme of the I’ll Take Manhattan. As Fred describes it:
With no volunteers for May, I’ll step in again to host Mixology Monday to keep this feline wrangling party going. The month of May usually makes me think of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic which had been running strong since 2009. Unfortunately, the event was sold off after the 2014 event and the new buyer dropped the ball on things this season. Also on my mind is that I will be finding myself in Manhattan next week on either side of attending Gaz Regan’s Cocktails in the Country a bit more upstate. With previous Mixology Monday themes of Martinis and Old Fashioneds, why not Manhattans?
* * *
For this theme, actuate it any way you’d like as long as the drink resembles a Manhattan. Want to take 19th century Manhattan recipes or variations to the test? Want to figure out what the best whiskey to vermouth pairings and ratios are? Or perhaps subbing out the whiskey or vermouth for another ingredient or adding in a liqueur or other modifier or so to the mix? Awesome, you’re right on track! There are plenty of Manhattan and Manhattan variations out there in the literature, and there’s plenty of room to explore and tinker if that’s your thing, too..
So, there you go. A Manhattan. Whiskey + Vermouth + bitters in a pretty straightforward 2:1 ratio. I decided to take some lessons learned from the Barrel Aged Bianco Manhattan, since I can’t just re-use it, for this month. Manhattans want that smokey, aged spirit component but barrel-aging a cocktail works best with a lighter spirit that hasn’t taken on any age yet. Okay – Let’s go with a light rum. With a light rum, there isn’t as much character to the spirit so we need to use a particularly assertive vermouth or highlight liquor. I choose Lillet because it is a fortified and aromatized wine with a strong flavor profile. Bitters – okay, let’s go with Black Walnut bitters to heighten the aging flavors and Jack Rudy Aromatic Bitters to amp up the flavors of the Lillet. Then, we will let it age. As I mentioned in the previous barrel aging post, I have a kit with charred oak staves so that the barrel aging can be accomplished in a matter of days, rather than months. More than enough time to get this done. Since the barrel aged cocktail has nothing but the alcohol in it, you’ve got to remember to chill and stir the drink before serving. Water is the last component of a drink and you need the dilution to meld the flavors together. Naming … with rum and Manhattan all rolling together, I went with The Privateer as a nod to the sea, the practice of sanctioned pirating, and because I liked the sound of it that night.
THis is interesting.
The Privateer is not a drink for new cocktail fans, but plays to the strengths and desires of cocktail geeks far down the bitter and herbal path. The floral and herbal notes are i the forefront, with an astringent quality, while the rum provides a background sweetness bringing in the flavors. The lime twist … well, it doesn’t add much except some color to the drink. I wanted to play on the lime and rum association here but it didn’t live up to the mental image. This plays well as an aperitif, stimulating the appetite and making your smack your lips wanting more drink, more food, more company. The Privateer twists the Manhattan, for sure, but makes up in herbal and floral notes what it lacks in smoke and sweetness.
Discussing the nature of Manhattans recently, it was pointed out by Muse of Doom that I had established a literally elemental cocktail – the four classic elements are all present in some way. Rum stands in for water, with its association with pirates and the high seas. Lillet acts as air with the herbal flavors and lightened component of the drink. The bitters are earth with a medicinal component composed of the herbs and other ingredients. The charred oak imparts fire. We talk a lot about balance in cocktails, and this truck me as another way this balance is achieved. The Manhattan is a foundational cocktail and in it, we find these components representing aspects of our world. Maybe that is why so many people love Manhattans.
Or maybe they just taste good.
- 2oz Light Rum
- 1oz Lillet Blanc
- 2 dashes Black Walnut bitters
- 2 dashes Jack Rudy Aromatic bitters
- Lime twist… okay, may be a homemade cocktail cherry would be better
- Combine the first four ingredients and stir briefly.
- Place in the aging apparatus of your choice and age to your preference. I went with a full week, simulating approximately 2 months in a barrel.On my next batch, I am shortening the aging.
- Pour approximately 3 ounces of the aged drink into your shaker tin that is ⅔ full of ice.
- Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
- Garnish with a lime twist.