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The Origin Of The Manhattan Cocktail Dates Back Longer Than You May Expect

A Manhattan cocktail served on a silver platter
A Manhattan cocktail served on a silver platter - Markhatfield/Getty Images

classic Manhattan cocktail offers smooth, dry sips that can pack a wallop with only a few ingredients. Made with rye whiskey (which can hold its own against the other ingredients), dry vermouth, and a few quick dashes of Angostura bitters, even the novice bartender among us can garnish one of these beauties with an orange peel and feel proud. Yet though these ruby-red cocktails are well known, their history is less so. The creation of this classic recipe can be traced back to the 1860s.

Though various accounts of how exactly the drink came to be have swirled among bartending circles (some of the more outlandish tales involving a colonel and Winston Churchill's mother), William Mulhall, a bartender at New York Hoffman's House in the 1880s, attributed the cocktail's origins to another bartender named George Black, who served drinks at a bar named the Manhattan Inn (which earned the drink its now-iconic name). This declaration has been supported by public records listing Black as a bar owner in Manhattan during the reported time. Mulhall himself held a significant role at a reputable establishment, lending further credit to his claim.

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A Cocktail For The Ages

Close-up of a Manhattan served in a martini glass with a cherry
Close-up of a Manhattan served in a martini glass with a cherry - 5PH/Shutterstock

In the late 1800s, the Manhattan was ahead of its time. The cocktail was one of the first drinks made with vermouth and tipped the first domino that ripped open the world of modern cocktails. Though the drink's name originally varied -- some called it a Jockey Club while others asked for a Turf Club at the bar -- the recipe soon became well-established, and bartenders became familiar with the order. It didn't take long for precise measurements to appear in bartending guidebooks with instructions on exactly how to make the drink.

Since its creation, the Manhattan has received tweaks and upgrades from bartenders who have added their own twists to the original recipe. From sweeter versions made with the tart syrup from Luxardo cherries to recipes that include multiple types of vermouth, the simple Manhattan has provided a pretty foundation for cocktail lovers to explore. Despite its longevity, however, when it comes to drink recipes that offer layered and smooth sips, the classic Manhattan remains at the top of the list.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.