manhattan | a first-time visit, a classic cocktail + an eponymous book

It’s been nearly three weeks since our visit to New York City, and I can still hear the bustling sounds in my head. It was my very first visit, and it proved quite the adventure-filled, three-day escape. Steve and I had already made plans to see our friend Andy’s art show in Chelsea at the end of September, but the stars truly aligned when the dates for the Saveur Blog Awards ceremony were announced. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. We immediately booked our tickets, plotted an easy departure from the restaurant’s responsibilities, and started researching places to stay and see and dine.

I had ideas of what New York would feel like, but experiencing it, firsthand, blew my mind. I’m still processing all that we packed in. Instead of staying at a swank hotel in the city, we opted for a cozy Airbnb in the Prospect Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn. I’ll share the details of our digs and dines in an upcoming post, along with all of the activities we enjoyed with the fellow blog award nominees and the Saveur team. For now, I’ll post a few captures from the first day we were there. A day filled with walking the streets of Brooklyn over to Manhattan, the best way to see the city, in my opinion.

And you know I can’t resist the chance to share with you a few riffs on the city’s most famous classic cocktail, the Manhattan. If you’re thirsty for a good story, read on. Heck, if you’re just plain thirsty, read on. I’ve got you covered here.

manhattan | a visit, a cocktail + a book | holly & flora manhattan | a visit, a cocktail + a book | holly & flora manhattan | a visit, a cocktail + a book | holly & flora

There’s nothing like experiencing the city on foot and by subway. Even after walking a couple of blocks from our neighborhood, we felt the pulse of city drawing us in. I quickly realized that there’s really not a leisurely pace; you have to jump into the groove and ride it. That, or get out of the way.

We started our exploration in the Prospect Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn. A few blocks into our walk, we scouted a couple of pizza joints and grabbed a few slices. I paired mine with a red Gatorade, because travel dehydration. What’s the actual flavor profile of “red drink”, let alone the actual ingredients? I didn’t want to think about it. The streets were hot, and the air was thick with humidity that rivaled that of my home state of Florida. I needed serious quenching.

Fueled by syrupy Gatorade and cheesy pizza, we braved the streets, eking out as much as we possibly could over the next few hours.

manhattan | a visit, a cocktail + a book | holly & flora manhattan | a visit, a cocktail + a book | holly & flora manhattan | a visit, a cocktail + a book | holly & flora manhattan | a visit, a cocktail + a book | holly & flora manhattan | a visit, a cocktail + a book | holly & floraSteve and I shared multiple laughs along our walk, as we experienced the many, for lack of a better word, “aromas” of the city. We’d weave through delicious scents of baking bread, followed by billows of bus exhaust, puffs of freshly lit weed, salt-laden sea air, and recently brewed coffee. So many aspects of the myriad ways of life there. I can’t leave out the momentary whiffs of garbage {or worse!} that would wander through my nose.

We joked that being a sommelier, walking the streets of the city, would never grow old or boring. You’d just walk a couple of feet and notice something different. We made a game of naming the aromas that wafted our way.

Back home, here at the restaurant, we have a running joke about our owner’s obsession with drinking the perfect Manhattan cocktail. We titled his obsession, “The Manhattan Project.” It seems as if he can never get a consistent cocktail made for him, despite the bartenders’ adherence to the recipe. I have to get him a copy of Philip Greene’s latest book, The Manhattan. It’s a story of the first modern cocktail of the same name, and it beautifully documents its evolution over time and benevolently shares iterations on the classic Manhattan cocktail recipe.manhattan | a visit, a cocktail + a book | holly & flora manhattan | a visit, a cocktail + a book | holly & flora manhattan | a visit, a cocktail + a book | holly & flora

manhattan | a visit, a cocktail + a book | holly & flora manhattan | a visit, a cocktail + a book | holly & flora manhattan | a visit, a cocktail + a book | holly & flora manhattan | a visit, a cocktail + a book | holly & flora

Philip Greene is no stranger to the world of classic cocktails. He previously wrote the book, To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion. As a cocktail enthusiast and a Hemingway fan, I can’t believe I don’t own this book yet. Greene is also a co-founder of the Museum of the American Cocktail, along with the James Beard Award-winning mixologist and author, Dale Degroff. This D.C. dweller shares the fabled stories of the beloved cocktail’s origins and offers a detailed timeline, complete with historical accounts and captivating photos of its evolution.

I was given a copy of The Manhattan to read and review, and I was delighted to slowly soak up this detailed read. So many of Greene’s accounts made me incredibly thirsty and had me researching some new-to-me spirits, so that I could make some of the classic riffs he shared. The book is a necessity in any cocktail enthusiast’s library, and it would make the perfect gift for the whiskey-lover in your world.

And for my boss. πŸ˜‰

The first half of the 240-page book details the history of the famed classic tipple and describes in detail its profound cultural impact, and the second half is packed with recipes that will keep you inspired. Greene weaves excellent storytelling skills with detailed facts in such a way that you have a difficult time stopping. One of the features I find most helpful in this book is the index: it’s separated into a general index and an index of ingredients and recipes. There’s also a timeline of pre-World War II recipes, along with their classic components, and many of the photos within the book were familiar sights to me from my own trip to the city.

I’ll go ahead and share two of my iterations of the Manhattan cocktail below, along with one of my favorites from Greene’s book.

manhattan | a visit, a cocktail + a book | holly & flora manhattan | a visit, a cocktail + a book | holly & flora manhattan | a visit, a cocktail + a book | holly & flora

My tastes shift and sway over time, but right now, I love a good rye Manhattan. There is definitely a difference in flavor profile for rye or bourbon Manhattans. As a refresher, I’ll briefly clarify the difference between the two spirits, since their flavor profiles lend different notes to the finished cocktails. There are definitely more specifications for whiskey-making than the ones I’m touching on, but I’ll keep it short and stick to the broad strokes here.

Simply stated, whiskey is any spirit distilled from fermented grain mash or, in some cases, corn, wheat, or barley. Rye whiskey, when produced in the United States, must be made from a mash of at least 51% rye. Rye whiskey cannot be distilled over 80% alcohol. There are no strict aging requirements for rye whiskies, but to be considered a “straight rye”, the whiskey must be aged in charred oak barrels for at least two years and have no additional flavors, colors, or other spirits added to the product.

Rye whiskey’s flavor profile is rather fruity and fiery. It’s also a little lighter on the palate and drier than bourbon.


rye manhattan


  1. In a mixing glass, combine the whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters.
  2. Add ice and stir well. Strain into a chilled coupe or Nick & Nora glass.
  3. Garnish with a dried orange slice or a fresh lemon peel, peeling the lemon over the cocktail to release the oils.

To be labeled as “bourbon”, the whiskey must be made in the United States, made from a mixture of at least 51% corn, and cannot be distilled over 80% alcohol. Like rye, bourbon has no strict aging requirements, but it is usually aged in charred oak barrels. The finished whiskey going into those barrels must be no more than 62.5% in alcohol content. You may have seen the words “straight bourbon” on a label. Again, that means there are no added flavors, colors, or additional spirits added to the whiskey.

Generally speaking, bourbon is smoother, is less fiery, and exhibits rich caramel and vanilla notes. A bourbon Manhattan tends to drink sweeter, richer, and perhaps a little smoother than a rye Manhattan. It’s just a matter of preference.


bourbon manhattan


  1. In a mixing glass, combine the whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters.
  2. Add ice and stir well. Strain into a chilled coupe or Nick & Nora glass.
  3. Garnish with a dried orange slice. If you don’t have any, garnish with a fresh lemon peel, peeling the orange over the cocktail to release the oils.

manhattan | a visit, a cocktail + a book | holly & flora manhattan | a visit, a cocktail + a book | holly & flora manhattan | a visit, a cocktail + a book | holly & flora

One of the most compelling aspects of this legendary cocktail is the melding together of spirits and flavors. Going back to my modest description of various aromas within the city, this cocktail is all about the aromatics. You’ve got sweet vermouth, an aromatized wine, filled with botanicals, herbs, and spices. This, combined with cozy, spicy whiskey, is a legendary combination. Add a few dashes of aromatic bitters to bring balance to the equation, and you’re drinking pure magic. Perhaps I exaggerate, but to me, it’s almost like finding a perfectly balanced wine: it’s savory while fruity, it’s fiery while rich on the palate, and it’s satisfying without being cloying.

When done right.

The last recipe I’ll share is one from Greene’s book, the Cargo Thief. There are so many spots I wished I’d hit on our trip to the city. I especially wanted to visit the famed Dead Rabbit bar, located within Manhattan’s Financial District. Time just didn’t allow the indulgence. This particular riff on the Manhattan is actually Dead Rabbit’s house Manhattan. It’s a “very old spec spiced up with bitter Punt e Mes and {their} own Orinoco Bitters.” It is aptly named after a gentleman named, John Morrissey, the leader of the Dead Rabbit Gang in the mid-1800s. Trying to escape poverty in his teens, he assumed the role of “cargo thief.”


cargo thief


  1. In a mixing glass, combine the rye, sweet vermouth, dry vermouth, absinthe, and orange bitters.
  2. Fill glass with ice and stir well.
  3. Strain into a chilled coupe or Nick & Nora glass and garnish with a dried orange slice.
  • I’ll have to share a detailed post on my orange bitters recipe, but I’d opt with either Angostura orange bitters or Fee Bros. West Indian orange bitters. Both work well in this recipe.
  • To make dried orange slices, simply slice an orange into 1/4″ slices and dry in a food dehydrator, following the manufacturer’s directions. I usually make a big batch of these and have them on hand for all kinds of cocktails. They make wonderful gift tags, as well.

I’m off to the tiny town of Paonia in the morning, as I schedule this post late Sunday evening. Just kidding. It’s actually 1:29 on Monday morning, and I’ve had two glasses of rosΓ©. You can send prayers and coffee for me, when I wake up less than six hours later. {Hey, taking time to decompress from work is necessary!} I’ll be assisting with harvest and wine-making over at Stone Cottage Cellars, starting tomorrow.

We just added their 2015 Gewurztraminer to our wine list at the restaurant, so I had to see, firsthand, how their process went down. The winery is located within the West Elks AVA over on Colorado’s western slope. Their Chardonnay is ready to be picked, so I’ve packed my grubbiest clothes and filled a cooler with snacks and wine for me to enjoy over the next couple of days. I have charged my iPhone, so that I can listen to a little something fun over the course of five hours. That’s a necessity, since my car radio has been broken since April. I’m actually just excited to get away and stay in their charming cottage and re-center.

It’s finally sinking in.

Cheers to an inspiring week ahead. Are you a Manhattan fan? Do you prefer rye or bourbon versions? Have you read Greene’s eponymous book yet?

Let me know what you think!

Jayme

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4 thoughts on “manhattan | a first-time visit, a classic cocktail + an eponymous book

  1. Adri Barr Crocetti

    What a lovely and utterly enticing article! What a terrific trip! What a great book! And indeed, what a classic cocktail. I love a good Manhattan. It is, as my mom used to say “good for what ails you.” Early this spring my husband and I were in a restaurant, our local burger joint, and it had been a very difficult day. The waiter came over and asked if we wanted “anything to drink.” I quickly said “I’ll have a Manhattan.” My husband was floored. We rarely order any alcoholic drinks when we are just out for a burger, but I was in need of a boost. After a few sips I felt ever so much better, ready to face, head on, come what may. Thank heavens for the Manhattan! I will purchase a copy. My shelves are positively packed with books on all things drinkable, and I know this will be a most welcome addition. Thank you for the introduction to the book.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Jayme Henderson Post author

      Hi, Adri!! I’m so happy this post inspired you. If you like reading about the history of how things came to be “classics”, you will love it. Plus, the recipes will keep you inspired and busy creating drinks. I have only recently become intrigued with whiskey-driven cocktails. I mean, I have always appreciated tasting them, but I usually go for something gin-based or wine-related. Manhattan’s are definitely on my radar now, but I am good for only one. I am quite the light-weight, but I’m okay with that. πŸ˜‰
      Let me know what you think of the book! Actually, do you have a couple of favorite drink-related books you love?

      Like

      Reply
    1. Jayme Henderson Post author

      I am definitely sharing tidbits about our chance visit there in the city. You kept me sane, for sure. And I’m so happy that Steve was so okay with our taking photos of our food and chatting bloggy foodie stuff. He says hi, btw. AND!!!! I am super excited to see you in less than a month! CRAZY!!!!! ❀ ❀ ❀

      Like

      Reply

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