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The Man and the Manhattan

March 23, 2012

In an industry build around characters, Gary Regan is a giant among giants. I don’t actually know where he lives, but I understand it’s in the Hudson Valley, 50 miles north of NYC. So bonus points for whoever spots him in the wild first.

I’m a subscriber to his free email newsletter. And truth be told, they are generally so filled with promotional blurbs that I rarely even glance at them anymore. But it always seems like too much work to actually cancel my “subscription” so instead I just generally click delete. Except for some reason, a recent email caught my eye.

The headline read, Balance is Everything in a Manhattan, and since this is one of my all time favorite cocktails, I scrolled down through the mire of gauzily disguised advertisement until I hit paydirt. It was there that I realized Mr. Regan is a man of impeccable tastes. Or at the very least, tastes surprisingly similar to my own. And it may even make me reconsider one of my deeply held grudges against a spirits manufacturer.

What Gary (who now calls himself Gaz) fully understands is that cocktail recipes aren’t merely about proportions, they are about specific brands and their performance in a drink. So I was excited to see how he makes a Manhattan when drinking it at home. Amazingly, it’s surprisingly like mine.

Manhattan (gaz regan’s Fave)
90 ml (3 oz) Evan Williams Black Label bourbon*
45 ml (1.5 oz) Noilly Prat sweet vermouth**
6 dashes Angostura bitters***
Build over ice in a large Old-Fashioned glass.  No garnish.

*Unless someone sends me some other kind of bourbon or straight rye–if it’s free, I’ll drink it.  If I have to buy it, I buy Evan Williams Black Label
** Unless someone sends me some other kind of sweet vermouth– if it’s free, I’ll drink it.  If I have to buy it, I buy Noilly Prat
***No substitutions.  And it’s been a long time since they sent me any freebies . . .

His default Manhattan is made with Evan Williams Black Label? Freakin’ sweet! That’s what we stock at home. Now in addition to claiming it as the best price to value bottle in the category, we can explain this is Gary Regan’s favorite build of the most venerable cocktail.

Granted, his is a little large for my taste. And the other thing to note is his use of Noilly Prat sweet vermouth. There are a couple bottles of Noilly Prat in the house, but they are the last remaining samples of the old-formulation dry vermouth. I’ve got a serious grudge against the company for discontinuing one of my favorite cocktail ingredients. As a result I have not been letting any Noilly Prat into our house.

But maybe it’s time for that to change.

I mean if Gary prefers it, it must be okay. Because after all, if he doesn’t suspect a joint can make a proper Manhattan, he’ll order a Jack Daniel’s on the rocks. This is my kind of guy, and worth breaking a grudge for.

I’ll try the new Manhattan and get back to you. Cheers.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 23, 2012 10:21 am

    While I have not had the pleasure of a Noilly Prat bottle in my home, I think this might be the nudge to make that acquisition. I do have a bottle of the Evan Williams – a complete score on the value-for-price charts – but I’d suggest you check out a comparable bourbon: Old Crow Reserve. Hear me out. I was skeptical at first, but the RESERVE (I believe it’s aged 4 years and 86 proof) really rises above its entry-level sibling. It’s certainly on par with the Evan Williams.

    Gaz goes pretty heavy on the bitters (this has been a habit of his for many years) but another substitution I’ve found to be well worth the price is Fee Bros Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters. It’s got a lot more punch than the Angostura.

    I understand the point of using specific brands for a specific flavor profile, but I just thought I’d make a couple more suggestions for a fellow Manhatton lover. For the record, I also enjoy Gaz’s version. It is a big larger than a cocktail-glass version, but fits rather nicely over ice in a large old fashioned glass.

    • March 23, 2012 12:51 pm

      I agree re: Fee Brothers whiskey barrel aromatic bitters, excellent. A little hit of their cherry bitters is good too. If you really want EXCELLENT vermouth go for Antica Formula by Carpano. Also worth trying in a Manhattan, Sherry Cask Canadian Club or Seagram’s Crown Royal Black.

  2. Mirdreams permalink
    March 23, 2012 11:57 am

    I made my first G&T of the year yesterday. The ice cubes clinking in the glass and sparkling in the sunshine were a delight. But that was fast-forwarding to keep with the premature summer weather. What do you recommend as a spring cocktail? I just found some maraschino liqueur at All Star so I have a home made Martinez in my near future and that might fit the bill.

    • March 23, 2012 1:01 pm

      How about a Mai Tai ala Dukes on Waikiki Beach, Rum, Cointreau, (passion fruit and pineapple juice–can get this mixture from Goya), half lime juice. In a rocks glass and top gently with a good dark rum like Meyers.

  3. PensiveEngineer permalink
    March 23, 2012 4:21 pm

    Love me a Manhattan. Although you and I differ greatly on our Manhattans. When making a bourbon manhattan, I make mine perfect, which is equal parts sweet and dry vermouth. I find the regular bourbon manhattan too sweet. If I do use rye or canadian whiskey or something of the drier nature, I will make it in the regular fashion. I also prefer mine up as opposed to on the rocks, with a homemade maraschino cherry. (Far better than store bought ones, see here: http://crunchychelle.com/?p=6983)

    I had never considered making a Manhattan with Evan Williams, it’s seems like a good idea. Have a bottle of the 10 yr stuff at home and I love it. When making a bourbon Manhattan I always use Hudson Baby Bourbon Whiskey. By far one of the best bourbons I’ve ever had. Although a bit pricey (>$30 for a half bottle!) it is local, made in our very own Hudson Valley.

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