The Black Manhattan is a wonderful variant on the classic Manhattan. For a Black Manhattan we pull the vermouth out completely and replace it with a silky sweet and bitter Italian Amaro called Averna.
Averna is a distinctive bottle, I scan the bar for the bottle before I order this. Many bartenders will make this with Montenegro, good, but it is a big step down. I like mine on a large ice cube, but if you prefer it up, that is your call. If you want to “rock it” ask for the specific cube, seriously. Personally, if I’m going to pay more than 15 dollars or quid for a cocktail, give me a big cube. If they don’t have them, then switch to ‘up’, no bar ice allowed in this one.
For the home bar it is an amazing add, it is wonderful on its own or in a cocktail.
High West Double Rye. Averna. Bitters. Orange Twist
The Black Manhattan is a wonderful variant on the classic Manhattan, one that can be enjoyed year round with classic elegance.
- 2 ounces of a big flavored Rye, like High West Double Rye
- 1 ounce of Averna
- 2 to 4 dashes angostura bitters
- Garnish with an orange peel
Add all to a mixing glass.
Stir with Ice.
Strain into a Old Fashioned glass over a large cube of ice.
Twist peel over glass, and place on top of ice cube.
Creating Great Craft Cocktails
Over the years I have made a large number of cocktails, but it was not until about the last year I focused on making great ones. Previously, I made the usual drinks. Like a blender full of frozen strawberries, a bunch of rum, lime juice and sugar, for a strawberry daiquiri sort of thing. Around a 2018 I began seriously studying cocktails in earnest. Because of this deeper dedication the quality of my cocktails improved to craft mixologist level.
There were three things that helped the most, and two of them were probably not surprising. The two that are simply logical are high quality ingredients and knowledge of technique. The final element was a study in depth of cocktail history. I found I needed a base of knowledge to guide me and my ability to make amazing cocktails others will like.
The Similarity Between Cocktails and Cuisine
Creating an excellent meal is similar to creating an excellent cocktail. In contrast though cocktails are faster and much less forgiving. Rarely do cocktails have more than 6 ingredients. Also as rarely, they are not prepared over a long period of time usually less than 2 minutes. Similar to cuisine, people like what they like. If someone hates lobster, no mater how well you prepare it, its still lobster. I have found the same goes for alcohol, gin haters can taste gin, and will hate it.
Cocktails, like cuisine, are about balance. Balance in food comes from 6 profiles, which are, sweet, sour, spicy salty, bitter, and unmami. Cocktails balance on only four, those are sweet, sour, boozy and dilution. Therefore by paying attention to the balance it is far easier to make a great cocktail.
Three Aspects of a Great Cocktail
High Quality Ingredients
High quality is harder in cocktails than one might expect, the non alcoholic ingredients have shelf lives, and take effort. The alcoholic ingredients can be very expensive and, at times of a limited usefulness. Making syrups, and always having fresh fruit on hand is important. As is having the proper liquor. But if you want something like a Corpse Revivier #2, possibly one of the most balanced and perfectly made cocktails, you will need Lilet, but how often will you use it? In a vesper maybe,or a Lilet cocktail, but it’s not a common ingredient. High quality is hard in cocktails. It took me over a year to build my bar, which is currently well north of 100 different bottles. I really had to commit. Not everyone has to go to this level, but having expensive straggler bottles is a side effect.
I came to realize that professional mixologists have a huge leg up on me. They mix many more drinks than I ever will. To learn technique I had to make, and most times drink a bunch of cocktails. Also I had to buy a full kit of real bar stuff. Things like shakers, mixing glasses, bitters, ice cube trays, its a long list. But it helped.
Finally, I needed to research the history, which is important for me. I have built a little society of friends who are “cocktail historians” like me, and it really helps. I also have quite a few historical books I draw upon. Knowing what something is, and where it came from is powerful. Especially in knowing how to make it, and how to develop a wholly new cocktail.
So please join me on my journey, with whatever effort you want to put in. I will be doing, and drinking, the research, and trying new things. So we can all enjoy a cocktail together.