It is entirely surprising that the Manhattan is only now making an appearance in the Barrister’s Bar Room. Many cocktails are created among friends, just as our own are crafted in the Bar Room. The story of the Manhattan cocktail is much of the same. In the 1870s, an affluent New York physician hosted a soiree at the Manhattan Club to honor Lady Randolph Churchill (Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s mother). At this gala event, the Doctor mixed together whiskey, vermouth, and bitters. The drink made a lasting impression, with many of the attendees requesting “that Manhattan cocktail.” The name stuck.
Absent to popular lore, the Manhattan probably was not created by a Doctor honoring Churchill at the Manhattan Club in New York City. The earliest publication is in a September, 1884 issue of New York’s “The Democrat.”
“Talking about compounders of drinks reminds me of the fact that never before has the taste for “mixed drinks” been so great as at present and new ideas, and new combinations are constantly being brought forward. It is but a short time ago that a mixture of whiskey, vermouth and bitters came into vogue. It went under various names- Manhattan cocktail, Turf Club cocktail, and Jockey Club cocktail. Bartenders at first were sorely puzzled what was wanted when it was demanded. But now they are fully cognizant of its various aliases and no difficulty is encountered.”
For our cocktail, we use a variation on Harry Johnson’s (1884) Manhattan No.1 recipe. While the recipe below is correct, we chose to barrel age a large batch – letting the cocktail rest for close to two months in a charred oak barrel.
2 oz. Rye Whiskey
1 oz. Italian Vermouth (Sweet)
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Prepare mixing glass with ice. Add Rye Whiskey, Italian Vermouth, and Angostura bitters. Stir until cold. Strain into a Martini glass. Enjoy.