I’ve avoided remixing the Manhattan up until now, though it’s been on my list since the beginning of the column, purely out of intimidation; the Manhattan is such a classic that I haven’t wanted to take it on. But, with the sixth season of Mad Men premiering Sunday, it felt like an auspicious time to shake off those nerves. The show is brown-liquor heaven, and the Manhattan, though invented in the late 1800s, reached its apotheosis in the 1950s – just like Don Draper. What better cocktail to toast with as the Men in Gray Flannel (and their female counterparts) run full tilt into the Summer of Love? American culture got a serious remix in 1968, which is when the show picks up Sunday night; if Mad Men can take it, so can the Manhattan.
So, how to remix a classic? Well, the traditional Manhattan is made with rye, but Don is a bourbon man, so I thought I’d start there. And about that maraschino cherry: ugh, but what fruit to substitute? Inspiration struck when I realized April and May are peach season in Florida, then everything fell into place.
This mix of Bulleit bourbon, Lillet Blanc (a French white-wine-based aperitif) and peach bitters – with a peachy little curveball – is crisp, spicy, herbal and fresh. (For a still lighter and springier version, visit our Salivation Army blog to get the recipe for a peach-bourbon smash.) As always in a cocktail with all alcoholic ingredients, you want to give it a good stir with some crushed ice; the slight addition of water is an intended part of the drink. So call it a Springtime in Manhattan, or a Manhattan South, or just an Oh Lighten Up, Manhattan, Stop Taking Yourself So Seriously: By any name, it smells and tastes just as sweet.
2 ounces rye whiskey
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 dash of Angostura bitters
1 maraschino cherry
Stir the rye, vermouth and bitters in a mixing glass filled with ice (preferably crushed). Strain into a stemmed cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry.
2 ounces bourbon
1/2 ounce Lillet Blanc
1/2 ounce good-quality peach liqueur (like Mathilde Pêches)
5 or 6 drops of peach bitters
1 mint leaf
1 peach slice
In a mixing glass, muddle the mint leaf and the peach bitters. Add crushed ice to the glass and pour in bourbon, Lillet and peach liqueur. Stir, then strain into a chilled, stemmed cocktail glass and garnish with peach slice.