Everything You Needed to Know about a Classic Cocktail

In the art of mixology, innovation is constant, but the classics remain timeless. The Manhattan is one such classic with a curious history and unique attributes that set it apart from the rest. Although the ingredients are simple in theory—whiskey, vermouth, and bitters—the fine details, proportions, and liquor used create endless possibilities. The preferred drink of Gilded Age luminaries such as investor J. P. Morgan and New York Governor Samuel J. Tilden, it remains relevant, and has even has seen a surge in popularity thanks to the craft bourbon boom and modern bartenders adding a twenty-first century spin to this nineteenth-century cocktail.

Bourbon connoisseurs and amateur mixologists alike will find everything they need to know about this venerable beverage in The Manhattan Cocktail: A Modern Guide to the Whiskey Classic by chef Albert W. A. Schmid. He walks readers through the lore surrounding the Manhattan, refuting one popular claim of Lady Randolph Churchill requesting the creation of the drink in honor of Samuel J. Tilden’s election to the governor’s office. Schmid also provides helpful chart, useful tips, and even answers the question of “shaken, or stirred?” Rounding out this collection are over fifty recipes, from the classic to the modern, that are sure to provide even the most seasoned bartender with new ideas.
Schmid details the Manhattan’s long history in American culture—from the infamous Whiskey Ring to its connections to the intriguing and influential Spencer-Churchill family. Dubbed the father of the Martinez and the grandfather of the Martini, the Manhattan was created not long after the end of the Civil War, and its history reflects the tumultuous era in which it was born. The beverage is as timeless as the people associated with it, and Schmid includes recipes from a number of them, from British novelist Sir Kingsley Amis’s (Whiskey) Manhattan to Kentucky humorist Irvin Cobb’s Manhattan (Dry).

More than just a collection of history and characters, The Manhattan Cocktail is a practical how-to guide, including everything from useful charts of proper pairings of whiskeys, vermouths, and bitters to instructions on how to flame an orange peel. Schmid explores myriad variations of the beverage and offers recipes easily followed by professional and amateur bartenders alike. For those preferring a dry or a perfect Manhattan, Schmid explains the differences and offers plenty of recipes, such as the Julep Manhattan, a dry variation originating from Louisville, Kentucky, and the White Manhattan, a perfect example that is nearly clear. From classics like “The Fourth Regiment,” a concoction dating back to 1889, calling for rye whiskey, sweet vermouth and Bitter Truth bitters to modern twists, like the Walnut Manhattan, featuring walnut bitters and maple simple syrup, this collection has something for every palate.

Throughout The Manhattan Cocktail, Schmid weaves together the story of the essential players and significant milestones that have added depth and complexity to the story of the Manhattan over the years. Through anecdotal storytelling and an eye for the art of mixing drinks, this book reveals the rich origins of this truly American concoction and provides the knowledge necessary to pour the perfect glass.

Albert W. A. Schmid is the director of the Hotel-Restaurant Management and Hospitality Management Departments at Sullivan University’s National Center for Hospitality Studies. He is the author of The Old Fashioned: An Essential Guide to the Original Whiskey Cocktail and the award-winning The Kentucky Bourbon Cookbook.


Mack McCormick, University Press of Kentucky, 663 S. Limestone Street, Lexington, KY 40508