Bites: After nine months, I’m ready for a Manhattan

Local distillers reveal their Manhattan recipes and personal favorite cocktail brands.

Photo courtesy of Catoctin Creek Distilling Co.
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I’ve been planning this for nine months, slowly collecting what I need, though I’m still missing a few key pieces. And because it takes a village, I’m asking for help.

I’m looking for a Manhattan recipe. It will be my first cocktail after giving birth (later this week—eek!).

Driving through Middleburg this summer, I picked up a vermouth from Mt. Defiance Cidery & Distillery. It’s sitting unopened on my bar cart, much to my husband’s displeasure. (Reminder: Vermouth doesn’t have a long shelf life and should be stored in the fridge.)

There’s a half-full bottle of Luxardo Maraschino Cherries and a new bottle of Fabbri’s Amarena Cherries, which I grabbed while working on a story about The Wine Cabinet in Reston, waiting for a taste test. We also have a small collection of bitters, including some made by friends.

We still need the whiskey, the rye, the bourbon … the main ingredient.

And so I’ve reached out to local distillers for their favorite Manhattan recipes and brand go-tos, as you’ll see below.

As for me, this is my last week before maternity leave. We have a slew of writers filling in for print and online stories, and if you consume as much food writing as I do, these bylines will be familiar to you: Rina Rapuano, Lani Furbank, Whitney Pipkin, Jessica Strelitz, Nevin Martell and Holley Simmons. (<< Thank you!)

Cheers to strong drinks and sleeping babies.


Black Manhattan
From Scott and Becky Harris at Catoctin Creek Distilling Co., and, says Scott, this recipe is a “variation of ‘black Manhattans’ that I’ve been playing with for years. I love amaro and have been experimenting with it a lot. The Don Ciccio ones are my favorites, but Averna is good. ”

2 ounces Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye
1/2 ounce Don Ciccio & Figli Amaro di Sirene
1/2 ounce Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
2-3 dashes mole, Aztec or chocolate bitters (Fee Brothers, Bittermens, Embitterment)
1 Luxardo Maraschino Cherries

Served up in a cocktail glass.


From Peter Ahlf at Mt. Defiance Cidery & Distillery, who says, the Manhattan is “my favorite drink! This is how I like them.”

2 ounces Mt. Defiance Old Volstead’s Straight Bourbon Whiskey
1 ounce Mt. Defiance Sweet Vermouth
1-2 dashes of Embitterment Aromatic Bitters (a wonderful product from D.C.; stronger than Angostura, so for me, usually one good shake will do)

Chill with ice in a cocktail shaker.
Strain into a cocktail glass.

Express an orange peel over the glass (use a vegetable peeler to peel a quarter-size piece of orange skin, then squeeze it skin side down into the drink). I prefer the orange peel garnish over a cherry because it gives the drink a wonderful blast of citrus aroma with the first sip.


From Brian Prewitt at A. Smith Bowman Distillery, who says, “A classic Manhattan, what to say except what an excellent way to let the flavor of the bourbon shine through. As for the cherries, I prefer a homemade maraschino cherry soaked with vanilla and orange peel, a little bourbon in the mix never hurts either. The vanilla and orange just adds a little something extra and works great with an Old-Fashioned, too.”

2 ounces Bowman Brothers Small Batch Bourbon
3/4 ounces sweet vermouth (Di Padrino,Carpano and Noilly Prat, which has some nice barrel characters that work with whiskey cocktails)
2 dashes Bittermens Trans-Atlantic Bitters
1 cherry garnish (see headnote)

Crush the cherry in the bottom of a rocks glass. Add ice. Add remaining ingredients and stir.


Photo courtesy of MurLarkery

Heritage Manhattan
From Jim Larkin at MurLarkey Distilled Spirits, who says, this is a popular drink in the distillery’s tasting room “and our Irish Grandparents enjoyed many a classic cocktail, including Manhattans.”

2 oz MurLarkey Heritage Whiskey
1 oz Tribuno Sweet Vermouth
3 dashes Angostura Aromatic Bitters
Ciliegie Delizioso Sour Cherries in Syrup

Place ice in a cocktail shaker. Add whiskey, vermouth and bitters. Stir ingredients. Strain into a rocks glass over ice. Add cherry.


Bare Knuckle Manhattan
From Peter Mowery at KO Distilling, who says, “Our bourbon lends notes of heavy corn sweetness, caramel, vanilla, oakiness, and peanut brittle, and this vermouth adds complex undertones of dried fruits, floral and herbal notes, and a subtle sweetness reminiscent of honey.” 

2 ounces KO Distilling Bare Knuckle Straight Bourbon Whiskey
1 ounce Dolin Rouge Sweet Vermouth
3 dashes Angostura Aromatic Bitters
Griottines Morello Cherries

Combine the whiskey and vermouth in a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir for about 20-30 seconds (less if you like your cocktail stronger). Strain into a rocks glass (or a martini glass for a more classic looking Manhattan). Add Angostura bitters to enhance this cocktail’s aromatics. Garnish with cherry.