20 March 2008

Vintage Manhattans

The idea of a vintage cocktail came to me when I was, as ever, revisiting the classics. Knowing that I would be making them numerous times over the years to come, as in the years before, I was struck by the thought that the evolution of drinks is almost Darwinian: the best ones outlast their competition and many have survived from the 20s or even earlier.

Following the theory of evolution, I then wondered if it was possible to make the best ones even better without just changing the obvious components: products and proportions.

After reading a number of papers, I was particularly inspired by a piece by Harold Mcgee which talked about the effect of oxidisation on wine. A Spanish friend had recently given me a 70-year-old bottle of an aperitif and I had been amazed how good it tasted. The flavours had matured and mellowed due to the residual air in the bottle. Barrels and staves where used tried but did not work in my opinion.

Hence the question. Could I use oxidisation in a positive way, controlling the process and thus refortifying not only sweet vermouth but even bourbon, and so improve the Manhattan? So I mixed together ten different bottles of sweet vermouth, bourbon and bitters, allowed a little air to enter them, then sealed them and lay them down...

After three months I found the result was dire and gave up on the project as another failed experiment. However, six months later, when clearing out the cellar of the bar, I came across my forgotten bottles. I was about to throw them away when I thought to taste them.

To my surprise, the flavours had blended together perfectly to give a mellower and smoother cocktail. So I laid down a whole batch in preparation for the next few years and now I have some that are over four years old!

The Vintage Manhattan

Stir all the ingredients together in a bowl – DO NOT ADD ICE!
Once combined completely pour the mixture into clean bottles using a funnel.
Allow a little air in the top then seal them tightly.
Leave in a dark place at room temperature for a year.

When aged serve as would a normal Manhattan

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