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Drinks Decoded: The Manhattan

by Lanna Nguyen on Oct 30, 2015 in Roundups

In this series, we take a closer look at well-known cocktails. Get to know the history behind these classic drinks as well as where you can find them in the DMV area. This week’s Drinks Decoded takes on the Manhattan.
 
The Basics
The Manhattan cocktail is made with whiskey, sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters. It is typically stirred, strained into a cocktail glass, and served straight up with a maraschino cherry. Variations of the drink include shaking the ingredients with ice in a shaker instead of stirring, garnishing with a lemon peel, employing bitters other than Angostura, and using bourbon or Canadian whiskey instead of American rye whiskey. Additionally, the Manhattan was one of the first drinks to use vermouth as a sweetener.
 
The Backstory
The Manhattan dates back to the late 1800’s where legend states it was first stirred up at party thrown by Jennie Jerome in 1874 (otherwise known as Lady Randolph Churchill, otherwise known as Winston Churchill’s mother). The party was held in New York at the Manhattan Club, thus giving us the name “Manhattan.” The socialite’s popularity and the success of her party supposedly catapulted the cocktail into high society, making it all the rage. Before you believe that, records show that Lady Randolph was actually in England, pregnant with Winston at the time. The more likely story behind the eponymous cocktail is that it was created to represent one of the five boroughs in New York City. Of the other boroughs, it most closely resembles the Bronx, a drink made with dry vermouth and maraschino liqueur.
 
The Bars
The hefty price tag that comes with this Manhattan is certainly worth a try. Made with Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye (a small batch whiskey from Bristol, PA), Dolin sweet vermouth, and Byrrh Quinquina (a French aperitif). Before you flinch at the $22 price tag, just think you’re being super classy, sipping your Manhattan in the fancy lounge of one of Georgetown’s poshest hotels. Totally worth it. (1050 31st St., NW; 202-617-2400)
 
On the complete opposite end of the price spectrum if you come during happy hour, the Riggsby offers up a Manhattan for just $6 ($13 for regular hours). Happy Hour runs from 4–7 PM, Monday through Friday. (1731 New Hampshire Ave., NW; 202-787-1500)
 
The Dupont Circle basement bar boasts a long list of Manhattans and variations...15 to be exact. Stop by if you want to try the classic version (rye, sweet vermouth, angostura bitters) which can be snagged for $6 during happy hour or sample a new take on it, like the Brooklyn Cocktail (Dickel Rye, dry vermouth, Luxardo, Averna). (1825 18th St., NW; 202-627-2183)

Photo by The Drink Nation

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