Manhattan Cocktail - Stirred vs. Shaken

By Robert Hess

Throughout the Cocktail Spirit web video series, Robert has explained why certain cocktails should be stirred while others benefit from a good shake. In this episode, he demonstrates why with the classic Manhattan cocktail.

Recipe

Ingredients

1 1/2 oz rye whiskey

1/2 oz sweet vermouth

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Instructions

Stir all ingredients with ice.

Strain into a cocktail glass.

Garnish with a cherry.

Comments
Chris CV 14 Dec 2010
9:52 am

Back when I started mixing at home, I didn’t care much about the appearance of my drinks.  I still much preferred a stirred Manhattan over shaken—maybe it’s just the texture like you said, but it really seemed like shaking somehow hurt the flavor.

George R. Welch 14 Dec 2010
10:35 am

Actually, I find that a Manhattan is one of the “safest” drinks to order in a bar—usually I get something good.  Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but I don’t recall getting a glass of swamp water like we see above.  On the other hand, I’ve been brought way too many shaken martinis.  (Maybe that’s Ian Fleming’s fault?)

I’ve never tried this with anything other than Angustura bitters, but Robert seems to be suggesting to try others.  Any suggestions?

Rich Delorme 14 Dec 2010
11:10 am

@George R. Welch
I prefer Fee’s Old Fashioned Bitters but I’ve used Regan’s Orange Bitters and Adam Elmegirab’s Boker’s Bitters.

I havne’t watched the video but I prefer stirred simply for the mouthfeel and lack of tiny ice chips.

Fred 14 Dec 2010
11:15 am

1. I would have liked to seen the drink after it sat 30 seconds.
2. I still prefer shaking a Martini. The spirits are (mostly) clear and shaking gets it icy cold, so much that ice forms on the top of the glass. 10-20 seconds after pouring, it is clear again.

Robert Hess 14 Dec 2010
11:46 am

@George, I agree. The Manhattan is often relatively safe to order. You have a far better chance of getting a good Manhattan in many bars then you do a good Old Fashioned.

As for bitters, any of the reasonably robust bitters will work well here, Angostura’s Orange bitters works quite well, as does Fee’s Barrel Aged Old Fashioned bitters, although both provide a different character. If you have other bitters hanging around the house (who doesn’t!) give them a try and see what you think.

@Fred, letting this drink rest for 30 seconds actually would make it look worse. In this video the foam on top is relatively even, but as it starts to settle it doesn so unevenly and you end up with even a more scummy look to it. The point you are making here however is a good one, and is typically more appropriate for Martini’s then it is Manhattan. While whiskey will react to shaking more than gin does, vermouth reacts even more. If you take the “modern” (aka. sucky) Martini, the one with no vermouth in it at all, it will be cloudy when it is first poured out, but will clear relatively quickly since there is no vermouth to “hold onto” the trapped air. However if you make your drink with a good chunk of vermouth in it, it will stay cloudy longer.

As for stirring versus shaking for the chill factor, various folks have gotten far geekier then I’m prepared to in these videos to illustrate that stirring or shaking both do an equal job in chilling the drink down. Some even seem to indicate that stirring does a better job. As for those little bits of ice across your drink, that’s not because the drink is “forming” due to the chill, instead it is shards of ice which have broken off of the ice. Many feel that this layer of ice hurts the drink in the long run, since it continues to melt and dilute the drink with a layer of water across the top.

However… in the end, all that matters is that you get the drink the way you want it. If you’ve decided by your own devices that you really do prefer a shaken Manhattan to a stirred one, then that is the way you should make it.

-Robert

Techista 14 Dec 2010
6:49 pm

Nice as always, ‘specially the side-by-side comparison.

I’ve got a question about using cherries in drinks, Manhattans and others.  I bought a bottle of Morello Cherries in light syrup from Trader Joe’s this week because Whole Foods was out of their awesome natural Maraschino Cherries.  Can either of these cherries be used in drinks, or does the Maraschino impart a specific flavor that’s necessary.

Robert Hess 15 Dec 2010
5:20 am

@Techista, the cherry we have all grown accustomed to as a “marachino cherry” is seen by many as an abomination, and almost ANY cherry besides those little neon bombs would work better in a drink :-> The modern marachino cherry used to be required to be called “imitation marachino cherry”, because it was… well… a cheap imitation of the real maraschino cherry that was used for drinks during the 1800’s. So feel free to substitute cherries in any way you want!

While a little on the expensive side, the cherry that most look toward to be the ultimate to use, is the Luxardo Marachino Cherry (http://www.kegworks.com/product.php?productid=172224).

blair frodelius 17 Dec 2010
7:22 am

Interestingly, Professor Jerry Thomas called for the addition of Maraschino Liqueur or Curacao in his shaken Manhattans.  Also, garnished with a lemon wedge, no cherry.

Gary Westfall 18 Dec 2010
12:53 pm

I don’t see too many shaken Manhattans the ones I encounter are always built over ice.  They just put whiskey and vermouth in a rocks glass with ice, usually with no bitters.  My problem is that they always get watered down.

Ian Picco 19 Dec 2010
6:32 pm

Hey Robert, great episode! I am a new subscriber, and I have many questions, but I’ll limit myself to only two here. Where can I purchase that great looking mixing glass you use here? I’ve been searching all over the web and can’t find a thing like it. Also, speaking again about cherries. Is it the Luxardo Cherry you use here or do you use something different? I remember having a similar looking cherry at a cocktail bar in New York, which was dark, and almost candied or dried. Would this be the Luxardo? Thanks for your help, and thanks for inadvertently making my cocktail party this weekend a smash hit. Looking forward to watching all the episodes!

Robert Hess 19 Dec 2010
8:07 pm

Ian, glad your party was such a hit!
The mixing glass I used here I got from CocktailKingdom.com, they have several great tools that they import specficially, and you probably can’t find anywhere else,
And the cherry I used here was a Luxardo cherry, and yes, they are very dark and seem almost candied. You can buy them from KegWorks.com, although I’ll warn you, they aren’t cheap!
-Robert

Chris Milligan 23 Dec 2010
7:22 am

For the really geeky in regards to shaken and stirred, the French Culinary Institute has 3 great blohposts about this.

http://www.cookingissues.com/2010/09/02/cocktail-science-in-general-part-1-of-2/

Robert Hess 23 Dec 2010
9:23 am

Chris, yes, Dave & Co. have some great (geeky) posts. The stirred/shaken study was quite interesting, and needs further delving into I think in order to move from a data driven study to a more humanistic one. For cocktails, while it doesn’t immediately seem to apply, the post I think I find the most interesting over there is this one:

http://www.cookingissues.com/2010/03/30/delicious-defective-cured-olive-oil/

I find myself refering to this, as well as specifically the “Cooks Illustrated vs. UC Davis” story it contains. This is a culinary reality I think it is important for none of us to forget.

-Robert

Chris Milligan 24 Dec 2010
6:28 am

I loved those articles too! and I agree!

Federico Cuco 24 Dec 2010
7:35 am

Here in Argentina, no one asks for a Manhattan shaken,
I guess maybe some people prefer them shaken, shaken because it is easier to drink.
In my expierence Only Amreican tourists drink this kind of cocktails shaken.
But everyone has their tastes-
I prefer my Manhattan stirred with vermotuh Cinzano.
By the way Robert, your technique to stirr improved much since the first videos I saw here.
Congratulations.
I got your book and find it fantastic,
Thank you very much for sharing your wisdom with us.
Greetings from Argentina

Nick L. 7 Jan 2011
11:04 am

Is that Old Overholt I see?!

Boy, does that take me back to sophomore year in college.

Excellent work as always, Robert.  Between shaking, muddling a maraschino cherry, or adding that maraschino cherry syrup into the drink, this just doesn’t seem like a cocktail that’s made with care anymore.  Thanks for spreading the word.

blair frodelius 15 Jan 2011
4:14 pm

Tonight I had the displeasure of one of the worst interpretations of a Manhattan on the planet.  It consisted of Crown Royal and Martini & Rossi Rosso thrown in a cocktail shaker; shaken for five seconds, then the whole mess dumped (not strained) into a rocks glass with two artificial maraschino cherries tossed on top of the ice like little shipwrecks.  Ironically, the nearby bottle of Angostura lay undisturbed.

Wow!  How many things do you see wrong with this picture???

Robert Hess 17 Jan 2011
6:36 am

Gracious… I’m surprised you even survived!

Ed 19 Jan 2011
7:55 pm

Where can I get that stirring vessel? It looks like a perfect size!

Ed 19 Jan 2011
8:38 pm

Oops..I see now you already answered that question! Thanks…

William Stevan 6 Feb 2011
6:53 pm

When to Shake:
Shake cocktails when they include fruit juices, cream liqueurs, simple syrup, sour mix, egg, dairy or any other thick or flavorful mixers. Shaking will create a strained drink with a cloudy, effervescent look at first that will clear up within a few minutes after straining.

When to Stir:
Stir cocktails that use distilled spirits or very light mixers only. Stirring is a more gentle technique for mixing cocktails and is used to delicately combine the drinks with a perfect amount of dilution. Many gin and whiskey cocktails are stirred because shaking is said to “bruise” the spirit.

Ioanna Syrimi 18 May 2011
7:48 am

I have a question .... not sure if is the proper place to ask it but ... well
anyhow ... I was digging in my dad’s bar and I found some old (what is left from the label looks at least 25 years old) bottle of cinzano rosso, unopened. Is it still good ? can I use it ?

Robert Hess 19 May 2011
5:37 am

Ioanna,
Well, let’s see, there is bad, and there is BAD. Vermouth is a fortified wine. One of the reasons for the fortificatin (by adding hgher proof alcohol, such as some brandy) as well as the herbal additions, is to help it “keep” better than a normal wine would. But in general, you should treat, and think of, vermouth as a wine, and probably a “cheap” wine, that doesn’t necessarily get better with age.

So consider a 25 year old bottle of somewhat cheap wine. It will technically never go “bad” to the point where it will make you sick if you drink it, the worst that would happen is that it would turn to vinegar, so you might not particularly “enjoy” drinking it.

If the bottle is still tightly sealed, and hasn’t seen much light, then it might not be too bad. Frankly, for scientific purposes, I’d recommend buying a new bottle of Cinzano Rosso, and then cracking both open do a blind taste test between the two. Both “straight”, as well as in a cocktail.

Then report back your findings!

And once opened, keep the bottles in the fridge.

-Robert

Alan 27 Jul 2011
4:06 pm

Just to touch on something blair fordelius has said, how do people here (and Robert specifically) feel about the addition of Maraschino Liqueur into this cocktail?

blair frodelius 27 Jul 2011
5:29 pm

Alan,

I’ve not tried it, but it may be something that works for you.  Personally, I wouldn’t add more than 1/4 ounce, as I think it would throw the whole cocktail in a sweeter direction.  Actually, your idea reminds me of an old cocktail called the Jockey Club Variation.

1.25 oz bourbon
1 oz sweet vermouth
0.25 oz maraschino

Cheers!

Blair Frodelius
http://goodspiritsnews.wordpress.com

Alan 27 Jul 2011
6:27 pm

Thanks again for the reply Blair.

With maraschino in a Manhattan it may resemble slightly the Brooklyn cocktail: http://adrinkontherocks.com/whiskey-2/vintage-cocktails-33-brooklyn-cocktail/ though of course that calls for Amer Picon…

However, I think I have read that a Jerry Thomas recipe for the Manhattan called for Maraschino liqueur though I couldn’t tell you the quantity.

I have tried adding a small amount (5-7mls/bar spoon) to Robert’s recipe and I did indeed find it a bit too sweet for my liking. I also tried adding a small amount to a perfect manhattan but I wasn’t impressed with the outcome. I’m thinking perhaps it shouldn’t be there or I don’t like it or maybe I just need to find the right ratio.

Robert Hess 28 Jul 2011
5:59 am

It’s in Jerry Thomas’ 1887 edition that we find a recipe for the Manhattan. There are essentially two different books by Jerry Thomas. The original from 1862, who’s title can be rather confusing… “The Bartender’s Guide - How To Mix Drinks -or- The Bon Vivant’s Companion” is the larger of the two, since it essentially is two books in one. Jerry Thomas’ list of recipes comes first, followed by Prof. Christian Shultz “Manual for the Manufacture of Cordials”. Then in 1887, just Jerry’s listing of recipes is published by itself, with some significant updates, including the recipe for the Manhattan, which is as follows:

Manhattan Cocktail
(Use small bar-glass)

Take 2 dashes of Curacoa or Maraschino.
  1 pony of rye whiskey
  1 wine-glass of vermouth
  3 dashes of Boker’s bitters
  2 small lumps of ice
Shake up well, and strain into a claret glass. Put a quater of a slice of lemon in the glass and serve. If the customer prefers it very sweet use also two dashes of gum syrup.

-Robert

Robert Hess 28 Jul 2011
6:28 am

Re: Maraschino liqueur in a Manhattan

As we just saw, some of the very early recipes for the Manhattan listed maraschino as a possible ingredient, so there is indeed precidence to it’s use. Over time, people most likely tried to come to a concensus as to what was, and was not, a Manhattan. And the recipe was streamlined down to whiskey, vermouth, bitters as we have it today.

Since the long standing concensus is that a Manhattan does not traditionally include maraschino (or curacoa), then I would be reluctant to recommend that ordinary bars simply serve them that way (likewise I wouldn’t recommend ordinary bars serve customers a martini made with as much dry vermouth as I prefer). However I am all in favor of them doing so in a Manhattan they list specially on their many (perhaps as a “Jerry Thomas Manhattan”?) and serve it that way when customers ask for it by name.

Similarly, I don’t like seeing bartenders adding a splash of “juice” from a jar of maraschino cherries to my Manhattan.

But at home, by all means, make your Manhattans any way you see fit!

Alan 28 Jul 2011
8:27 am

Thanks Robert. Re: Jerry’s recipe there, he says shake?!  :o

I did get a Manhattan with a dash of Maraschino Liqueur once in a bar in Cardiff, Wales. It was much sweeter.

Ps. I wouldn’t dream of adding cocktail cherry juice to my Manhattan! :)

Lynn Ballintiner 28 Feb 2012
6:50 pm

I would like to share a bad surprising bad experience that has a happy ending. My wife and I frequent a very nice restaurant that has an excellent bar. During my last trip there I ordered a Manhattan from the very nice bartender. They were out of rye, which I enjoy, but she told me their stock bourbon was Maker’s Mark, which I very much like in a Manhattan, so I ordered. What I received was a “foam bomb”. I mean this thing must have been shaken to relieve stress. I politely told the bartender that Manhattans should not be prepared this way. She politely responded, “no, you are incorrect , the preferred method is to shake them unless the customer asks otherwise “. I let it go. Minutes later the drink looked worse, but I was having a good time and didn’t want to be a complainer. Later that night I wrote an email message to the management in which I complimented them on all the good things they do: using premium well brands -in addition to Maker’s, their “stock” spirits include Titlo’s vodka, a very nice scotch the name of which I forget, Tanquery gin, etc. They don’t use cruddy tonic; they use Fever Tree. I told them I was surprised and disappointed with my Manhattan and thought they should know. The next day I received a very nice reply from the manager who wrote, among other things, that he is committed to the belief that “Manhattans should be prepared in a shaker, but never shaken :-)”. He also sent me a $50 gift certificate for the place.
Ah, there is hope for humanity.

Zakhia 29 Nov 2013
3:55 pm

Finally found Angostura Bitters in Ghana and tried my hand at a Manhattan but was dissapointed I found it a bit too sweet and not so well balanced may be it was my fault never understoud a dash. But the night was saved with a Fernet Branca which I found used it to make a hanky panky. Would try again tomorrow, but would try to decrease the sweet vermouth and increase the bitters.

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