The Mixologists Take Manhattan

The Manhattan: It’s the drink mixologist Gary Regan says “changed the face of cocktails.”

Featuring rye whiskey with a bit of vermouth with a sprinkle or three of bitters, it was arguably the first drink to draft vermouth as a sidekick. That was, as they say, a damn game-changer. The Martinez followed, then the Martini, and eventually all manner of cocktail goodness gracing humanity today.

In case you hadn’t noticed, brown spirits are everywhere, which not only means that fall is officially here but also that if you haven’t turned back your clocks by now, you’re way behind the curve. That would make you highly unworthy to participate in the aptly named Manhattan Project, an ongoing push to promote the drink that runs through early next year.

Two or three times a month, one of six participating Dallas venues will host the free event, whipping up the voluptuous namesake cocktail using whiskeys represented by project sponsor Republic National Distribution Company, such as Buffalo Trace and W.L. Weller.

“The Manhattan is the classic bourbon cocktail,” says Chris Furtado, Republic’s craft specialist. “We really want to emphasize the drink itself, and everybody’s interpretation of it.”

With the mass market kinder to vodka and gin, Furtado says, bourbon cocktails can be overlooked. “But for us classic cocktail lovers,” he says, “it’s a great drink.”

So far, the Manhattan has been celebrated at Cedars Social, People’s Last Stand and the Black Swan Saloon. This week, the tour hit Uptown’s Private/Social. Still to come are Hibiscus and Whiskey Cake before the tour circles around and each gets another shot at the deal.

“We’re showcasing bourbon and places that do it well,” Furtado says, nursing a Manhattan at Cedars Social. “I want people who come here to go to People’s Last Stand. I want people to think of Black Swan as a cocktail destination; they’re doing great stuff.”

The classic Manhattan recipe calls for a 2:1 rye whiskey-to-vermouth ratio. I typically make mine with a 3:1 ratio using Bulleit Rye and a few dashes of Bittercube’s Cherry Bark Vanilla bitters.

Japanese cocktail legend Kazuo Uyeda makes his Manhattans 4:1 and  suggests the ratio can go up to 5:1 before the whiskey’s “brooding, complex character” body-slams everything else in the glass.

Experiment with it yourself and figure out what you like. “Quite simply,” mixologist Regan writes in his classic The Joy of Mixology, “when properly constructed, it is the finest cocktail on the face of the earth.”

The next Manhattan Project event will be Tuesday, Nov. 20, from 7 to 9 p.m. at Hibiscus, 2927 N. Henderson in Dallas.

— Marc Ramirez, Nov. 5, 2012

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