The Manhattan is a sexy and classy cocktail with its deep ruby color and rich warming flavors. It’s my favorite winter cocktail. I can take my Manhattan with Rye or Bourbon and even Canadian whiskey, but I cannot take it shaken. Shaking a Manhattan is bartender malpractice… mixology malfeasance. The ugly foam that floats on top of the shaken Manhattan is cringe worthy; the tiny shards of ice that water down the boozy cocktail send shock waves through my pallet; the faded Cosmo-like color, ugh. A shaken Manhattan upsets all of my senses, and I am not alone.
One evening, we ventured out to a local bar where we always order beer or wine or a perfunctory cocktail like gin and tonic. Our friend, we’ll call her Heidi, texted us that she was at the end of a challenging day and needed a cocktail. She asked where we were, said to save her a seat, order her a Manhattan and she’d be there in 5. I followed her instruction and ordered the Manhattan. Minutes later, I hear the sound of ice being tossed around in a shaker. “Oh no, please don’t let that be Heidi’s cocktail.” The bartender placed a foamy pink cocktail in front of the empty barstool. We looked at each other with eyes the size of saucers “what should we do, she’ll be here any second and this is going to make her bad day even worse”! I grabbed the meringue topped cocktail and began blowing on it to try to minimize the foam.
Somewhat successful, I sat the glass down just in time. Heidi walked into the bar and plopped down in the seat that we had saved. She took one look at the glass sitting in front of her and said “what is this?” Me: “that’s the cocktail you asked for.” Heidi: “no, I asked for a Manhattan.” Me: “I ordered a Manhattan.” A good sport, Heidi tasted the cocktail. Without any emotion, she summoned the bartender over. Super-friendly bubbly bartender: “How’s your drink?” Heidi: “Um, what exactly is it?” Super-friendly bubbly bartender: “It’s a Manhattan. Your friends ordered you a Manhattan. Do you not want a Manhattan?” Heidi, as she slides the cocktail across the bar toward the bartender: “I want a Manhattan. This is not a Manhattan. I am sure you did your best but I can’t drink this.” Her cocktail was replaced with a glass of wine.
On another occasion, I visited one of my regular stops and ordered a Manhattan from someone I don’t usually order a cocktail from. He sat the drink down in front of me and the second I looked at the foamy mess, without a word, the drink was whisked away by the bartender that generally makes my cocktails. With apologies, he returned with a properly made Manhattan, stirred, not shaken.
We had discussed a solution to this dilemma would be to ask for our Manhattan stirred, not shaken but I’m not convinced that is a good idea. If the bartender doesn’t know that a Manhattan should be stirred, do we want to drink their Manhattan anyway?
The history of the cocktail is unclear, some accounts say it originated at the Manhattan Club in New York City in early 1870 and was invented by Dr. Iain Marshall for a banquet hosted by Winston Churchill's mother. Other accounts say it was invented by a bartender by the name of Black at a bar on Houston St in NYC.
From David Wondrich's Recipe
Prepare a cocktail glass or coupe by placing it in the freezer for 30 minutes. Measure 2 oz Rye whiskey and 1 oz sweet vermouth into a standard pint glass. Add 2 – 3 dashes of Angostura bitters. Add ice and STIR about 50 revolutions. Strain into the chilled glass. Garnish with lemon or cherry.