The Manhattan opens the door to a myriad of variations on the theme. The primary change is with the vermouth, substituting other things for the sweet vermouth.
One of my favorites is using port wine instead of the sweet vermouth, and since the port is often not as sweet as vermouth I add a little dark maple syrup to the mix. The resulting drink has some interesting complexity which I really like. It also stands up to some other bitters well, particularly Fee Brothers Black Walnut bitters.
Other possibilities for vermouth substitutions are in the “what’s that stuff?” aisle of your favorite liquor store, things like Dubonnet, Lillet, Amari, and sweet sherries are all candidates based on your tastes. As with my port selection, you can add a bit of sweetness if needed to restore balance.
And, of course, you can change the primary liquor. For example gin plus vermouth is a traditional Martini- but we’ll visit the Martinez, a more complex alleged precursor to the Martini before diving into the Martini and the horrors perpetrated in its name.
Coming up next, we’ll take a look at another Old Fashioned variant, the New Orleans classis Sazerac. After that, I’ll dive into some tools and techniques that I’ve been glossing over in recent posts.