The History of The Manhattan
Once in a while, when I feel like traveling back in time, I head to a bar in downtown Boston. The upscale furniture, the servers dressed in black and the shelves stocked with high-end scotch all bring you into a different era. My go-to drink here is a Manhattan, and after one, I’m set. The second, however, puts all of your worries to rest.
What the heck is a Manhattan?
Traditionally, a Manhattan is made with Rye whiskey (which, by law, is produced from a mash that consists of at least 51 percent rye), sweet vermouth and bitters. Variations include switching up the rye whiskey with bourbon or Canadian whiskey. The combination is stirred over ice and then poured into a martini glass. The maraschino cherry that is added at the end didn’t appear on the scene until the 1900s.
What’s the story behind the Manhattan?
Most assume that the drink was named after the most popular of New York’s five boroughs. Well, like most cocktails, the origin of the Manhattan is up for debate. The most popular story is that, in 1874, the drink was created by Dr. Iain Marshall for a party hosted at The Manhattan Club (a club consisting of very rich, politically connected Democrats) by Jennie Jerome (aka Lady Randolph Churchill, the mother of the future Prime Minister of England, Winston Churchill) for presidential hopeful Samuel J. Tilden.
Another story is that, ten years prior, it was mixed at a bar on Broadway near Houston Street in Lower Manhattan.
Some may have also seen this drink called the Tennessee Cocktail, which is what appeared in the 1930s cocktail book, Shake ‘em Up! by V. Elliot and P. Strong. Doesn’t this look familiar: “Two parts of whiskey, one part of Italian Vermouth and a dash of bitters poured over ice and stirred vigorously.” Sounds delicious to me!
Yield: 1 cocktail
Glassware: Martini Glass
1. Pour whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters into a glass over ice. Stir to chill.
2. Strain drink into martini glass. Drop in a maraschino cherry and serve!
Brian Samuels is Managing Editor at The Boys Club and blogger at A Thought For Food.