Steel-aged Manhattan

Blending house Manhattans for ageing in steel for six weeks...
Blending house Manhattans for ageing in steel for six weeks…

The section in Tristan Stephenson’s Curious Bartender about ageing cocktails was very interesting to read. Most cocktail ingredients – spirits, vermouths, bitters and so forth – have been through individual ageing processes before being bottled, creating their unique flavour that adds to each drink they are used in. Stephenson suggests another level of ageing, mixing a cocktail and then allowing the blended drink to rest for a further period, creates a subtly different drink to the one mixed and served immediately, giving examples of both his own drinks and those  of other bartenders he has sampled. He notes the differences between the various ageing devices, from wooden barrels to bottles & flasks, retaining his greatest enthusiasm for simple stainless steel flasks.

I thought I would put this to the test with a batch of my own ‘house’ Manhattan, adapted by the recipe for the Industrial Revolution cocktail that Stephenson gives in his book. Using a basic stainless steel drink flask that I found on Amazon for around £6, I mixed up the following:

300ml of bourbon (Wild Turkey)

100ml of sweet vermouth (Martini Rosso)

50ml of dry vermouth (Noilly Prat)

15ml of maraschino (Briottet marasquin)

10 drops of Bob’s Abbott’s bitter

All of this went into the flask, given a good shake and labelled with the starting date. I aim to be trying this out with some friends at a cocktail evening in September. I will keep taking a quick sniff from the flask from time to time to see if I can detect any changes.

Once ready, the mixture will be stirred over ice and then strained into a chilled glass. For the sake of the experiment, I will be mixing an unaged version at the same time to sample against…

Update – November 2017.

IMG_5972Last night, I returned to a batch of rye-based Manhattans I made around Christmas 2016, and which had been maturing in a flask in my drinks ‘fridge ever since. Chilled & ready mixed, I just needed to measure out 3ozs into a cold glass, and add a garnish of lemon zest.

Somehow, resting quietly at a few degrees above zero for around a year had really changed & improved the flavours of the drink; it was an incredibly smooth Manhattan, rich and spicy & with a distinctive, but not overpowering, bitter note. This might see like an overly-elaborate method of cocktail making, but it really does seem to add a dimension to the drink I hadn’t expected. I really don’t know what is going on with this approach, but something good is happening in that flask. Worth experimenting with, I believe – if you have the time, and the patience.

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Sidecar

Sidecar, made with Bas Armagnac
Sidecar, made with Bas Armagnac

Following the disappointment with the Aviation earlier (too harsh, too acidic), I remembered another classic, lemon juice-based drink: the Sidecar. But, unlike the Aviation, this recipe is perfectly balanced, with proportions of one sour (the juice), one sweet (Triple Sec) & two strong (Brandy or Cognac). Shaken rapidly over ice, then strained into a cooled glass, the drink has a sharp and refreshing hit followed by a warming glow from the two alcohols. The combination of the two fruits, lemon & orange, are really well matched. I used the proportions as laid out in Tristan Stephenson‘s book, the Curious Bartender, in a classic 1:1:2 combination. Made like this, the drink comes out as a sophisticated relative to the Margarita.

Proportions:

20ml of fresh lemon juice

20ml of Cointreau or Triple Sec (I used Gabriel Boudier Curaçao Triple Sec)

40ml of Brandy or Cognac (I used Chateau de Millet Bas Armagnac)

Glass: 3oz Martini glass, chilled

Shake well in a shaker over cubed ice, then strain into the Martini glass. Without garnish is the traditional way to serve the drink.