A couple of e-mails in response to the post yesterday on the bitter crisis. First up is Ben from Endless Apes:
I hadn't heard about the Angostura crisis. I use it once in awhile, but I prefer other, better products--including Peychaud's. But you really need to hunt down a bottle of Fee Brother's Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters. It isn't cheap, but, oh my, is it ever good. Fee Bros. has raised its game in the past few years.
Kegworks.com also sells a bunch of interesting bitters, including everything in the Fees line--except--the Whiskey Barrel Aged, I'm afraid.
Next is Dave from Minnesota:
I defer to the Fraters knowledge of fine alcohol, but when I graduated from the Minnesota School of Bartending, bitters were not part of a Manhattan. The only drink they taught that included Angostura bitters was the made from scratch Old Fashioned. The recipes provided:
1 1/2 shots whiskey
1/2 shot sweet vermouth
decorate with cherry
or a perfect Manhattan-
1 1/2 shots whiskey
1/4 shot dry vermouth
1/4 shot sweet vermouth
decorate with olive
Only the Old Fashioned has bitters-
1 pack sugar
2 dashes Angostura bitters
add ice cubes
1 shot whiskey
fill with charge water
What is your experience with a Manhattan?
I appreciate the fact that Dave defers to our knowledge in this arena. And with good reason in this case. I am sure that the five mixing guides I have behind my bar all include bitters in a traditional Manhattan. Wikipedia describes a Manhattan thusly:
A Manhattan is a cocktail made with whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. Commonly used whiskeys include rye (the traditional choice), Canadian whisky, bourbon, blended whiskey and Tennessee whiskey. Proportions of whiskey to vermouth vary, from a very sweet 1:1 ratio to a much drier 4:1 ratio, some people even enjoy a 10:1. The cocktail is often stirred with ice and strained into a cocktail glass, where it is garnished with a Maraschino cherry with a stem. A Manhattan is also frequently served on the rocks in an old-fashioned glass (lowball glass).
The Manhattan is one of six basic drinks listed in David A. Embury's classic The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. It has been called a drinking man's cocktail--strong, urbane, and simple. It has also been called the "king of cocktails."
In my mind the closet thing to a living "king of cocktails" today is the WSJ's Eric Felten, a man who I happily defer to in such matters:
And in the winter it is whiskey, in the form of an Old Fashioned (rye, bitters, sugar, lemon peel, orange slice and cherry) or a Manhattan (rye, sweet vermouth bitters), that I find most fitting.
In my experience and from all available information, bitters are an essential ingredient in any proper Manhattan. The fact that the Minnesota School of Bartending teaches something different may go a long ways in explaining why it's often difficult to get a decent cocktail in this town. Sigh. We really need to get back to the basics in education.
UPDATE-- Learned Foot e-mails to question the Minnesota School of Bartender's credentials on another classic cocktail:
Your MSOB correspondent flunked Old Fashioneds. As martinis are to Bond, the Old Fashioned is to me.
Insert your own joke here.
Making an Old Fashioned is more about technique than it is to ingredients. In fact, the default Old Fashioned booze in many parts of the country is brandy, not whisky. In other places, it's specifically bourbon whiskey. I prefer Irish, but to each his own. To make the One True Old Fashioned, the mixer must follow these steps in this order:
1. place an orange slice at the bottom of the glass.
2. One tsp sugar (more or less to drinker's taste) on top of orange
3. 2 or so dashes of -yes - Agnostura bitters into the sugar.
4. 1 Marichino cherry on top of sugar and orange.
5. Here's the important step: muddle the cherry and sugar into the orange, mashing up the cherry pretty good without totally pulverizing it.
7. Pour in your booze and club soda. Stir.