On Friday night, Michelle and I were lucky enough to get seats at the Manhattan class hosted at the Party Source. The class was this month’s spirit entry and sought to help distill the Manhattan to it’s base components. It was taught by Jay Erisman, a sometimes guest blogger here at My Wine Education, as well as a huge fan of bouron and whiskey.
The approach was simple and effective: Choose your whiskey, choose your Vermouth, add bitters and stir.
For the whiskey, we were given three samples. Maker’s Mark brought mellow soft and rounded flavors common to the wheat bourbons while Wild Turkey added the spiciness of the 101 proof rye based bourbon. Sazerac Rye, Party Source special barrel selection, was the final whiskey option removing all sweetness associated with the corn and adding in extra rye. These three were well thought out selections that showed how each would provide a base in the cocktail. Personally, I think there are plenty of other bourbons that could be used as a base. Separating the qualities was the important step as a sweet bourbon is going to react differently to the other components.
The next most important part of a Manhattan is the sweet vermouth. Straight vermouth is an unexpected assault on the palate and should only be attempted under strict adult supervision. Well, maybe it’s not that bad, but there is a reason that vermouth is a popular mixer into other flavors and not usually consumed alone on the rocks or neat. Once again, we were treated to three styles of vermouth: Noilly Prat (sweet), Martini and Rossi (really sweet), Carpano Punt Y Mes (bitter). Here the challenge was deciding how each of the flavors would complement various whiskeys. Bitter and spicy melds the Carpano with the Rye, sweet and sweet lends to Makers and Noilly Prat.
The final, and some argue most important, part of the Manhattan is the bitters. This time four selections were brought around for sampling: Angostura, which had a very ginger aroma; Fee Brothers brought orange and cinnamon characteristics; Regan’s Orange which surprisingly tasted like a dried orange; Peychard’s Bitters and all the anise flavor you can imagine. This added layer of complexity and choice brings all the different aspects of the Manhattan into a bit more clarity.
Overall the tasting provided me with the opportunity to try different types of vermouth and bitters that I had not previously been exposed to. The recipes listed in the handouts are well thought out and organized and the directions on making bulk cocktails are some of the best pre-party planning instructions available.
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