Mixing Manhattan Cocktails with Our Winemakers
In honor of this year’s Manhattan Month celebration, which is taking place all October long, we went to our Quady/Vya winemakers for their take on the iconic Manhattan cocktail. Our winemakers have been producing Vya Vermouth for over 20 years, which is arguably the best vermouth for a Manhattan. Just to prove we’re not being biased – tastings.com’s World Cocktail Championships awarded our Vya Sweet Vermouth with 1st place as the best vermouth for Manhattan cocktails!
What do you enjoy about Manhattan Cocktails?
Andrew Quady (Owner, CEO and Vya Creator): Simply put, if properly made, they are delicious.
Darin Peterson (Winemaker): I don’t drink spirits that often. When I do, I prefer bourbon and rye, so I’ve always been partial to Manhattans and the Old-fashioned cocktail.
Cole Dennis (Asst. Winemaker): I find enjoyment out of the memories that arise in preparing the drink. My father has been making them for as long as I can remember and I would have the privilege of eating one or two of the cherries he had in his drink. I’ve been told that my family has been making Manhattans at home for decades. It is our resident cocktail.
What’s your preferred time and place to enjoy a Manhattan, and your favorite recipe?
Andrew: Before dinner as an aperitif. I enjoy them at home or at a restaurant and my go-to recipe is 1:1, whiskey to vermouth.
Darin: I like them with less octane. So more vermouth than whiskey, a couple dashes of bitters and a splash of juice from the cherries (Woodford bourbon soaked or Luxardo if you can splurge) is the way I like mine. I’m a fan of the single large-sized ice cube as well. Garnish with one of the cherries and a wide strip of orange rind taken with a peeler.
Cole: Preferred time is happy hour of course. Place is home amongst good friends and especially family. Recipe is 2-1-2: 2 dashes of bitters, 1 shot of vermouth, 2 shots whiskey. Sometimes a 1:1 ratio is quite delightful as well.
What makes a good Manhattan?
Andrew: Balance of flavors from the whiskey, vermouth, and added bitters. The Vermouth component which makes up 1/3 to 1/2 of the volume is critical. It should have a flavor which complements the vanilla flavor in the whiskey, and the correct level of sweetness and bitterness so that the Manhattan tastes just sweet enough, with a little bitterness to round out the mouth feel. The added bitters are very important. Use 1 dash of bitters per ounce of Manhattan. Note that the added bitters are not the main source of bitterness in the Manhattan. The bitters add additional flavors which make the drink more complex and interesting. The bitterness in a Manhattan (which should not be excessive, just noticeable) comes from the vermouth.
I find it more enjoyable if the proper glass is used, which for me is the classic martini shape, holding about 3 ounces. Chill the glass in the freezer or by filling it with ice cubes before you start. Add all ingredients to a mixing glass filled with cold ice. Stir gently until the sides of the glass feel very cold; a sign that the mixture is also cold and has a percentage of water added from the melted ice. Strain the contents of the glass into the martini glass. I usually leave out the cherry garnish because it can add too much sweetness for me, but if you have one of the special Italian dark cherries, that sweet wild cherry flavor is something to be savored. This method of making a Manhattan is more precise than serving it “on-the-rocks” because you can produce a composition which does not change during the course of drinking the Manhattan. Served “on-the-rocks” and your Manhattan will start out strong and finish watery.
Darin: Decent bourbon. Doesn’t have to be top shelf. Good ice—buy it if you must, but you don’t want anything floating in your drink. Good company and good conversation to accompany it.
Cole: Only 2 things: the ingredients and the company that you surround yourself with.
Why do you think Vya makes a uniquely good Manhattan?
Andrew: The flavors in Vya Sweet are like a mixture of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, cardamom, and more. These flavors are perfect complements to the vanilla component of whiskey. The blend works in either the classic 1/3 vermouth or 1/2 vermouth levels. Besides the sort of flavors which complement whiskey, Vya contributes sweetness and bitterness in levels needed to make a great Manhattan. Once you have had a properly made Vya Manhattan you will never go back to ordinary sweet vermouth.
Darin: Vya Sweet pairs well with bourbon because it is bold and intense.
Cole: Vya makes a good Manhattan because of the spice bill of the product. It has a variety of baking spices that are complementary to rye whiskies or bourbons that are “woodier” in nature and derive their aromas from the requisite repertoire of the oak flavor profiles: vanilla, coconut, spice, toasty, and charred notes.
Are you a fan of Manhattan cocktails? Well we hope you’ll join us for Manhattan Month this year! Be sure to participate on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook with #manhattanmonth and visit www.manhattanmonth.com for more on the occasion and ways to celebrate with us.