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Entertaining
6 Classic Riffs on a Manhattan You Have Never Heard Of

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There are often times when you’re craving a Manhattan, but you don’t want the standard Manhattan you’ve had a million times before. In these moments, you could look to modern cocktail bars turning out inventive variations to break up the monotony—or you could look to history. Generations of Manhattan drinkers have faced the same conundrum and attempted to find Manhattan-esque drinks—similar to the original in both structure and flavor. Fortunately, they succeeded, creating a number of alternatives that evoke the Manhattan while creating something wholly unique at the same time. From a Reverse Manhattan that is more of an aperitif, to a brolic Manhattan that mixes rye whiskey with rum and port, these six variations on the classic deserve to be brought back into the spotlight. Call them Manhattan riffs, call them classics in their own right, or call them your new go-to drinks—just don’t call for another Manhattan.

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If you know how to make a Manhattan, then you know how to make a Reverse Manhattan. Like the Reverse Martini, this switched-up classic simply swaps the proportions of sweet vermouth and rye in a standard Manhattan, creating a lighter, aperitif-like take on the original. Rye’s bold pepper and alcoholic bite is tamed by the higher measure of vermouth, so we suggest opting for a bigger, more vivacious brand like Carpano Antica to counteract the loss of flavor.

The Essentials

sweet vermouth
rye
Angostura
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We’re not sure what a Cuban revolution has to do with a Manhattan variation, but we do take Charles H. Baker’s recipe note in The Gentleman’s Companion to heart: “Treat this one with the respect it deserves, gentlemen.” (Ladies should take note as well.) Absinthe and Cherry Heering might sound out of place in a Manhattan, but the flavors all meld perfectly—just look at a Sazerac or Blood and Sand for proof. The cocktail is a journey for your mouth, with distinctive absinthe appearing first on the palate, slowly unfolding into sweet cherry and peppery rye. Plus, the sweetness of the liqueur cuts absinthe’s potent flavor, making the drink palatable for even the biggest absinthe-phobe.

The Essentials

rye whiskey
Cherry Heering
absinthe
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The Monte Carlo is about as close to a Manhattan as you can get on this list. The only difference is that this variation swaps sweet vermouth for herbal Bénédictine liqueur, yielding an ever-so-slightly heavier, honeyed, orange-flecked cocktail. With it’s refreshing lightness and slight bitterness, the Monte Carlo may become your new go-to order for a pre-dinner aperitif. It’s languished in relative obscurity since David Embury put it down in print in his 1948 The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, so while your bartender may not know the Monte Carlo by name, he’ll certainly be impressed by your unique call for a Bénédictine modifier in your Manhattan.

The Essentials

rye
Bénédictine
Angostura
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Back in 1935, when The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book first hit shelves, mixing port into a cocktail was a regular affair, adding tannic edge and winey fruitiness to cocktails. Even so, the Suburban, a riff on the Manhattan, is a rare breed of cocktail—even for the ‘30s when it was created. A mix of rye whiskey, dark rum, bitters and port, the Suburban is deep, jammy and utterly enthralling. With a round, velvety texture that hugs your mouth, nuances of fruit from the port, and a sweet complexity from the rye and dark rum harmonizing together, the cocktail satisfies more than any other drinks from its period.

The Essentials

rye
ruby port
dark rum
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Albert Stevens Crockett has perhaps the best explanation for the Harvard’s popularity. In his 1931 Old Waldorf Bar Days, he writes, “Named after the school for young men…in a suburb of Boston. Alumni who drunk it sometimes lost the ‘Harvard accent.’” While we can’t promise this Manhattan variation will make you sound more (or less) classically educated, we can guarantee the drink will go down easy. Made with brandy—which gives the drink a fruity, appley flavor—along with rich demerara syrup, vermouth and bitters, the Harvard has a warming, autumnal feel. While the original recipe in George J. Kappeler’s Modern American Drinks calls for a topper of soda, we prefer the neater, tighter flavors without the fizz.

The Essentials

brandy
sweet vermouth
demerara syrup
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Meet a brunch-ready Manhattan to rival any Bloody Mary. The Fourth Regiment features orange bitters, which give the drink a fruity zing, Angostura bitters to dry it out and give a hint of baking spice, and celery bitters—a truly perplexing addition that adds a savory tinge. Also plumbed from Baker’s The Gentleman’s Companion, the cocktail is a total shocker—even to the author, who picked it up from a British naval commander in Bombay. The taste of the drink hovers between gingersnap biscuits, soy sauce, tomato and Maggi seasoning (MSG). Baker’s original recipe calls for a squeeze of lime over top of the finished cocktail, but we prefer a salty garnish, like a cocktail onion or olive, to provide some bite at the end of the savory flavor.

The Essentials

orange bitters
Angostura bitters
celery bitters

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