Start with two solid, respectable ice cubes. None of those suspicious-smelling milk-colored clunkers from your fridge’s ice maker, mind you. Show some self-respect, for God’s sake.
Next, liberally sprinkle your cubes with aromatic bitters. Be like the U.S. Congress in an election year. Like Oprah with a basketful of Pontiac keys. Shower your cubes with irresponsible angostura love.
Now pour in a shot of the best dry vermouth you can get. Look, this is no time to get chintzy. You’re not decorating a freshman dorm room with IKEA furniture. This is the penthouse suite of beverages, my friend. Class the joint up.
Now hit it with a shake of orange bitters. This should be more subtle than what you did with the aromatic bitters. Think Peter Strzok’s little shoulder shimmy during his congressional testimony, only imagine a man doing it.
The next part is up to you: two shots of a whiskey of your choosing. This is the moment when a specialist would seek to impress you, writing something like, “I prefer the Sounder Mountain 241 Saddleback Rye, handcrafted in the Flint Hills of Kansas and cured in Davy Crockett’s casket.” Rest assured, you don’t need a fancy-schmancy whiskey to make a fine Manhattan. I usually go with a bourbon, preferring its sweetness to what I lose when I go with dry over sweet vermouth. I love Traverse City Whiskey Company’s cherry bourbon, and I always make sure to buy a case when I visit my secret hideaway in northern Michigan. Barring that, I go with High West’s American Prairie bourbon. You also can’t go wrong with Four Roses small batch, or even Makers 46.
The only bourbon I advise against is Woodford Reserve. I don’t have a problem with the flavor or quality, mind you; it’s just that I’ve seen too many dudes named Chad sipping it from a mason jar while grooving to Mumford and Sons. Don’t be that guy.
Now for your final ingredient: two cherries. If a Maraschino just crossed your mind, I want you to slap yourself in the face for me. What you need here is a delicious, flavor-drenched Griottine. Add a little of the juice if you want extra sweetness.
Last, but certainly no less important: Give it a good stir. Go Bob Marley on that glass. Make some mischief in there. Now drop in one more fresh, crisp, lovely cube, and you’re ready to enjoy this little taste of American goodness, handcrafted in your very own glass. And there’s not a damn thing the revenuers or teetotalers can do about it.
Tony Woodlief is a writer in North Carolina.
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