The Bartender’s Blog – Manhattan or Mouse?

Whether I am welcoming you back, or embracing you for the first time, my open arms are delighted to receive you for this, the second of my blogs. Through my extensive knowledge, and lack of judgement to the fact that some people like vodka in their cocktails, I will be your tour guide on a journey through the dark arts of mixology. Hopefully, you learnt something last week. If you weren’t one of the very few lucky ones that sampled my work, why not head over and check out my first (and as I type this, best) entry to get a basic understanding of drinks, and what we are all about here.

Last week, we got it started and covered the basics, and a couple of tasty and wonderful drinks. This week, we are going to dip our toes in slightly warmer, slightly saltier waters. If last week was gingerly tip-toeing into a freezing, British coastal sea, this week is a head-long dive into the luxurious waters of the Mediterrean. Step up to the front of the class, as I bring to you the classiest of classy drinks. The coolest of drinks. The most controversial of drinks. Part One of our focus on drinks served in Martini glasses.

Before we get into the social stigmas and worries associated with presenting your drinks in such a manner, let’s take a peek down Martini Memory Lane at how this glass came to be. You may think that, due to their extravagant appearance, they are merely shaped that way for presentation, to make young women (a topic we will address later) squeal with delight at how fancy they look. This, the more functional minded of you might be pleased to know, is a fallacy. As mentioned last week, cocktails need a shot of water in them to dilute the alcohol and mix the ingredients, thus removing the burn and creating a blended effect. Shaking a certain number of times with ice produces the same results, but the dramatic reduction in temperature goes to serve another purpose – cocktails tend to taste much better when cold.

The eagle-eyed and hawk-brained may have realised by now that if a drink is served after being shaken with ice, coming into contact with a hand that is at least going to be 37.5 degrees (body temperature) is going to warm that drink up faster than a cat’s feet on a hot tin roof. Therefore, the long stem of a Martini glass (originally, and sometimes still, called a cocktail glass) is there simply to ensure that you grip that instead of the glass and enjoy your tipple at its desired temperature for as long as possible. However, if you make some of the drinks discussed today, that shouldn’t be too long!

I am, as you can probably tell, quite a mellow fellow. I enjoy a drink, a chat, and the company of good friends. My ire is not raised often, but one thing that can be guaranteed to tilt me over the edge of Irritation Canyon is when guys look at a drink served in a martini glass and say, “Isn’t that for a girl?”. No, you poorly misguided chap. It is actually the venue for some of the world’s greatest drinks. And perhaps the manliest of them all is the one that is usually thought to be the girliest.

Sex. And. The. City. Girls. Drink. Manhattans. A simple statement, with lots of full stops. I assure you that if in fact Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte (and at a stretch, Stanford) actually drank Manhattans, they would have had more hair on their chests than the world’s supply of Veet can deal with. This butch drink is served ‘straight up’ – in a Martini glass. This is the first reason that this glass gives all drinks a head start in the manhood stakes. When drinks such as Mojitos, Caipirinhas, sours, fizzes, Collins, or fabulous tiki drinks are served, they are ‘on the rocks’, or on ice. This means that the drink stays much colder, but also that the ice in the glass will dilute and thus weaken the drink. However, the only dilution in a Manhattan comes from the ice you stir the drink with, and trust me when I say it starts strong, and stays strong. This is what is in it:

Perfect Manhattan

75ml Good quality Rye Whiskey
12.5ml Dry Vermouth
12.5ml Sweet Vermouth
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
5ml Cherry Syrup

The key here is to work from the smallest ingredient up. Fill your boston glass three quarters full with ice. Add the angostura bitters and cherry syrup, then both half shots of vermouth. The reason for starting small is that it reduces the speed at which the liquids, which can be chilled to room temperature, dilute the ice before you can start the careful process of stirring, thus ensuring balance in your drink. Add the rye whiskey. We use rye, which has to be whiskey distilled from at least 51% rye because it is less sweet than bourbon, and has a terrific earthiness to it, which makes much, much deeper and more complex cocktails. Once the ingredients are added, stir 20-25 times with a barspoon to attain the desired level of balance. Take a julep strainer, place in the glass and pour, through a tea strainer into your chilled martini glass. Manly perfection.

There are roughly 3 different types of Manhattan – Dry, Sweet and Perfect. The above recipe is perfect, which means that the garnish is a classic cherry in the bottom of the glass. Dry means that you don’t add any sweet vermouth and double up on the dry, and is the choice of those who like whiskey and wet Martinis. The garnish for that is an orange twist, which gives a subtle yet delightfully fruity resonance everytime you sup. The sweet means that you don’t use any dry vermouth, but a full shot of sweet, and is probably the best place to start when getting your Manhattan on. Garnish with a cherry and the orange twist to bring you the full gambit of fruity pleasure! If you want to raise a glass to the brave souls of the Twin Towers, then adding two cherries as a garnish serves worldwide as an alcoholic nod to those who lost their lives.

That seems like a wonderfully meloncholy note to end this week’s one. Next time, we will continue our trip down the long stemmed path of righteousness, as we look at the oldest of all ‘straight up’ drinks – The Martini. Who knows, maybe our little voyage of exploration might even take in a few more visions of beauty from within this exclusive, and very unisex, group of cocktails. Fare thee well, I’m off watch Carrie ditch Petrovsky and meet Big in Paris, Manhattan, sweet side of perfect, in hand.

The BarMan

4 Comments on this post.
  • Michael Morrison
    11 November 2010 at 16:35
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    You my friend, seem an arrogant prick.

  • Tim Edwards
    11 November 2010 at 17:15
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  • chris
    8 February 2011 at 01:24
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    idiot you add the ice last in all cocktails, alcohol melts the ice quicker diluting your drink more than necessary. thats like day one of bartending school. i stopped reading at this point as you have clearly used wikipedia and know nothing,

  • target hours
    24 February 2011 at 14:30
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    Nice one! If I could write like this I would be well chuffed. The more I read articles of such quality as this (which is rare), the more I think there might be a future for the Net. Keep it up, as it were.

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