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This past October 4-6, 2012, the Boston Cocktail Summit celebrated the outstanding cocktail scene here in our city.  I spent three days attending seminars, being all nerdy about booze and sipping quite a few delicious spirits and cocktails.  One of the many seminars I attended was “I’ll Take Manhattan: A Social History of a Classic Cocktail” with Brother Cleve.  Is there a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than sipping Manhattans while Boston cocktail legend Brother Cleve recounts the history and lasting legacy of this venerable and always delicious cocktail of cocktails? 

The Manhattan. First served in NYC in the early 1870s, this cocktail never seems to go out of style.  Sure, the preferred whiskey, the proportions of ingredients, the vermouth and the garnish may vary depending on decade, but each version is still one hell of a cocktail.  Two early bartending books– How To Mix Drinks: The Barkeeper’s Handbook by George Winter and O.H. Byron’s The Modern Bartender’s Guide: How to Mix Fancy Drinks–both published in 1884 include a recipe for a Manhattan.

A mini-Manhattan watches on as Brother Cleve walks us through some boozy history

There were two major factors that lead to the creation of the Manhattan—the abundance of grains growing in the US and the arrival of vermouth from Italy.  In the 18th-early 19th century, it was a lot easier to transport grain in a distilled, liquid form than in big bales of hay, so rye whiskey production was in full swing and was the brown liquor of choice for many Americans.  And then in 1868 sweet Italian vermouth arrives in the US via Martini and Rossi.  Someone puts together rye and vermouth, and the Manhattan is born.

The following are the four recipes that we sampled; recipes courtesy of Brother Cleve.

All cocktails are stirred with ice in a mixing glass, and strained into a chilled cocktail coupe.

1873 Manhattan

This equal parts version is considered the original Manhattan, and remained popular until the second decade of the 20th century.

1 ½ oz Wild Turkey 101 bourbon

1 ½ oz Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
½ barspoon gum syrup (or simple syrup)
1 dash Orange Curaçao
1 dash Orange Bitters
garnish with lemon twist

Prohibition Era Manhattan
This is probably the best known version with a 2-1 ratio

2 oz Wild Turkey Rye
1 oz Cinzano Rosso vermouth
1 dash Angostura Bitters
garnish with an olive and a lemon twist

I made myself a post-WWII version to sip while writing this post. Delicious.

Post-WWII Manhattan
Also known as the Perfect Manhattan, this version combines sweet and dry vermouth.  As Brother Cleve told us “this is how my grandmother taught me to make a Manhattan.”

2 oz Wild Turkey 81 bourbon

½ oz Martini & Rossi Dry vermouth
½ oz Martini & Rossi Sweet vermouth
garnish with a cocktail cherry

Black Manhattan

This recent variation was created at Bourbon & Branch, San Francisco, 2007, and adds an amaro.

2 oz Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit
1 oz Punt E Mes
½ oz Amaro Averna

1 dash Aromatic Bitters
garnish with Maraschino cherry

To Brother Cleve for an entertaining and informative exploration of the Manhattan,  and to a classic cocktail that inspired our learning and imbibing.  Cheers!


At this time of year, I crave rich, spicy, warm flavors in my cocktails.  And so begins my love affair with the Sangre de Cristo, featured in Imbibe magazine’s recent piece on spiced cocktails for the holiday season.  The cocktail draws inspiration from the flavor profile of a traditional mulled wine and is a gorgeous deep red color (hence the name, “blood of Christ”).  Featuring sweet vermouth infused with ginger and cinnamon, combined with red wine and honey syrup, this drink meets all my criteria for a holiday cocktail—lusciously spiced, rich and complex flavor, yet also light (holiday parties can be a marathon, no need to be wearing a lampshade as a hat after a couple drinks).  I served this as a punch at my holiday party (huge hit!), have been sipping the infused sweet vermouth on its own, and enjoyed this cocktail as I finished my holiday wrapping.

Infusing the sweet vermouth is super simple.  Combine 1 liter of sweet vermouth (I used Martini and Rossi) with 1 ounce of peeled and diced ginger (about the size of your thumb) and two cinnamon sticks broken into pieces.  Steep in an airtight container overnight (I did 2 nights actually).  Fine strain and store in refrigerator.  And this infused vermouth is absolutely delicious on its own over a couple rocks.

Sangre de Cristo (by Alon Munzer, Heather Mojer and Ned Greene, Hungry Mother)

2 oz ginger & cinnamon-infused sweet vermouth

1 oz Grenache

½ oz honey syrup (equal parts honey and water)

2 dashes orange bitters

Stir together in a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with cinnamon stick.

Happy Holidays to you and yours! Cheers!

Sunday night, season 4 of Mad Men began.  I love this show for the characters, the clothes, the decor, the history (It is hard for me to believe that just 40 years ago women were called “doll” in the workplace and it was okay!), and of course the drinks.  If you want to drink Mad Men style, you have many options– some expected, like a gimlet or a Tom Collins, others unexpected perhaps.

Julie and I thought a Manhattan would be a good choice to sip while we watched.  We are both extremely fond of Deep Ellum’s 1970s Manhattan which features Canadian Club (yes, Canadian Club).   I just happened to have a new bottle fresh from a recent stop at the NH liquor store– perfect.  Two parts Canadian Club, one part sweet vermouth, and a couple dashes of bitters (we experimented we a couple different things, but I thought orange bitters were best here), stir, and serve on the rocks and you have one mighty delicious drink.

So, there we are sipping our Manhattans watching Don Draper do his thing, which when in the office usually includes a drink (that’s straight alcohol they drink all day in work!).  I catch a glimpse of the bottle– what’s that? Canadian Club!  The label was a bit different than the modern label on my bottle, but that definitely said Canadian Club in that familiar flourished script.

To more Mad Men inspired cocktails. Cheers!

The Negroni is one of my favorite summer drinks.  I just love sipping the potent bitter complexity on a warm day.  The end of my week-long vacation was sadly in my sights, so I thought what better way to savor the afternoon in the sun than with this delicious drink.

This was my view as I sipped my Negroni

The legend of the Negroni tells us that it was created in the 1920s in Florence, Italy when Count Camillo Negroni asked a bartender to stiffen his Americano, which consists of sweet vermouth, Campari and soda water.  A splash of gin was added and the Negroni was born.  While it is served in various fashions, I agree with Dale Degroff that its best over ice with an orange twist.

It was pretty hot Friday afternoon so I made good use of one of those freezer mugs, so my Negroni stayed icy cold. I know its not the proper glassware, but when in the woods you need to get creative.


1 oz gin

1 oz Campari

1 oz sweet vermouth (I used Carpano Antica which is pretty flavorful stuff, so I actually cut this to ¾ oz)

Shake and serve over ice with an orange twist.


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