At Churchill’s Mom’s! Or is it? The legend behind the Manhattan
When exactly the cocktail originated and whether the widespread story about this is true, can once again not be proven beyond doubt. The most common story, however, is that the cocktail was first created in 1874 by a certain Dr. Ian Marshall.
The latter is said to have mixed the now famous short drink on the occasion of a banquet given by Jennie Churchill, the mother of future Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Since the event was held at the New York Manhattan Club, guests associated the name with the location. When they later asked for the drink in other bars, they called it the “Manhattan Cocktail,” after which the cocktail rapidly gained popularity.
A beautiful story, if it were true. Because at the indicated time period Jennie Churchill was most of the time in France and gave birth to her son Winston on November 30 in Blenheim Palace (Great Britain). Improbably, she immediately embarked on a ship, crossed to America to hold a banquet in New York on December 29.How the cocktail probably really originated
The story with Churchill’s mother is super suitable to tell as a bartender to his guests. It opens a scene and paints a picture that you love to get into. But the more likely story of its origin is probably rather unspectacular.
Like most cocktails, the Manhattan may have been created by accident or by an experimental bartender. One may assume that at that time (1874) the cocktail was already the house drink of the New York Manhattan Club and it got its name from the bar itself, which thus wanted to market it as a signature drink.
It is certain that variations of the drink were known by the 1880s at the latest. As stated in the New and Improved Bartender’s Manual by Harry Johnson, the earlier recipe was still equal parts whiskey and vermouth*.
At that time it was common to prepare the aperitif with other ingredients such as absinthe or orange liqueur.
Thanks to its great popularity, there are now several variants of the classic. Mainly for them different whiskeys, vermouths and / or bitters are used and their mixing ratio is adjusted.
Rory O’More – The Irish Variant
For this version of Manhattan, Irish whiskey is used instead of rye and orange bitters are added.
Rob Roy or Affinity – The Drink for William Wallace
Instead of Rye whiskey*, the Scottish version relies on Scotch, of course, and another ingredient: 2-3 dashes of Bénédictine (herbal liqueur).
Brooklyn – The local derby of rivals
The Brooklyn is actually a regular Manhattan, but it gets a few splashes of cherry liqueur to give it a little more fruit.
Föhr: The Manhattan as a German national drink
If when you think of North Frisia you think mainly of harsh weather and strong black tea, you should do some more soul-searching. In fact, the Manhattan cocktail is the national drink of the North Frisian island of Föhr.
Returning emigrants from the U.S. brought the recipe back to the island, where the cocktail quickly found favor and is now considered the national drink of the Föhrer. So the next time you spend your summer vacation there: order a Manhattan!
But the North Frisians wouldn’t be the North Frisians if they hadn’t given the drink their own touch. Usually the aperitif on Föhr consists of one part each of rye whiskey, red and white vermouth.