Like its namesake city, the Manhattan is elegant but uncompromising and invulnerable to fashion’s changing whims. Oh, sure, it can bend a little—rocks or up, bourbon or rye, occasionally willing to entertain a variation like the scotch-inflected Rob Roy—but it will always be what it is: a drink of whisky, vermouth and bitters.
It’s been that way since the 1880s, when it was invented. Or maybe it was the 1870s or 1860s. In any case, writing in Difford’s Guide, Simon Difford notes that “the Manhattan is regarded as the first ‘modern cocktail.’” Or as the late bartending legend Gary “Gaz” Regan once said, “It was the drink that changed the face of cocktails.”
The mid-20th century was the best of times, the booziest of times
The end of the Second World War ushered in an era of unprecedented prosperity and optimism across North America. The space race was on; so was the baby boom, a housing boom and a technology boom that filled all those new homes with fancy gadgets and their driveways with shiny automobiles. (There was also another, less happy “boom” on people’s minds, a nuclear one.)
And, when workers came home from the office to their tidy, well-appointed suburbs, they’d mix up pitchers of Martinis or Mai Tais to enjoy around their kidney-shaped cocktail tables.
If given the choice, you’d pick potato chips over chocolate. You prefer your cheese well aged and a little blue. When you order sushi, you always need to refill your soy dipping bowl. You can’t wait for mushroom season. And you almost certainly have at least three types of salt in your pantry right now.
If you’re the sort of person who craves savoury and salty flavours, then the Dirty Martini is the drink for you. Luckily, it’s no longer the pariah of the cocktail set.
The key to this cocktail is using hot espresso—if the coffee is cold, it won’t form the “crema,” the creamy foam on top that is the drink’s signature. The three coffee beans represent health, wealth and happiness.
Three drinks that bring new meaning to “one for the road”
If you’re like me, you’ve probably been dreaming of escape, of going somewhere, anywhere that isn’t your home. But it might be a while before it seems like a good idea to hop on a train or a plane just for fun.
Instead, let this trio of classic cocktails whisk you away on a spirited journey.
Cocktails have always tasted of travel and exotic places. A Kir Royale is a sip of France just as a Margarita is of Mexico. A bowl of punch carries memories of India. Tropical cocktails are the very essence of the Caribbean or South Pacific.
But some cocktails are about the journey itself, inspired by the modes of transportation that will get you there. Consider these three—the Aviation, 20th Century and Sidecar—the sour-based planes, trains and automobiles of cocktail culture.
Bénédictine’s storied role in cocktails old and new
If you’re the sort of person who likes their cocktails served with a side of storytelling, then Bénédictine is the drink for you. Consider it the Forrest Gump of the spirits world, popping up at just the right moments and in the just the right cocktails.
Bénédictine is an herbal liqueur produced in France, based on Cognac, sweetened with honey and flavoured with 27 herbs and spices including saffron, hyssop and lemon balm. Like Chartreuse, it was originally produced centuries ago, concocted by monks as a medicinal tonic.