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August 30, 2004

Against the Bourbon Manhattan

Will Baude is a bourbon drinker. I never would have guessed which is probably somewhat judgmental on my part, but given Will's cultural IQ, I would have thought him a sipper of fine cognacs, 20 year old Scottish whiskys and vintage Ports. Of course, maybe he is. I know I don't discriminate when it comes to high-class hooch.

Will's post on making Manhattans got me to wondering if anyone else prefers their Manhattans made with Canadian whisky like I do. While I like bourbon on the rocks and in mint juleps, I got started with Canadian whiskey in Manhattans and that's the way I prefer it.

My first Manhattan was made for me by a gentleman who told me the apocryphal story that the drink was invented in New York during Prohibition and was made with smuggled Canadian rye whisky. That's not true, of course. The Manhattan, according to stories that are fairly undisputed, was first made in Manhattan at the Manhattan club sometime in the late 19th century.

When I was first served a bourbon Manhattan, I found it far too sweet. The vermouth and cherry combined with the corn-sweetened bourbon was too much. Canadian whisky, made mostly with rye and barley, makes for a much less cloying drink.

The art of making Manhattans has been lost around here, probably due to the unceasing martini madness that still grips the local bartenders. I don't order them when I'm out anymore because I discovered that even if I specifically order it with Canadian Club Reserve or something similar, the bartenders, almost to a person, pour cherry juice into the drink, completely ruining the drink, even if it was made with Canadian whisky.

Posted by Half-Cocked at August 30, 2004 10:56 PM


I have to agree... making a Manhattan with bourbon really changes it considerably. I love bourbon to drink by itself, but I'll stick with Canadian Whiskey for the Manhattans...

Posted by: paul at August 31, 2004 07:33 PM

Will made a point in an email to me that it helps to use a strong, unfiltered bourbon when making Manhattans. Problem is, when I have good bourbon like that, I prefer to drink it with a couple of ice cubes, or even without. At my wedding, I had a flask of Booker's in the inside pocket of my tux jacket.

Posted by: Steve at August 31, 2004 10:25 PM