Rosemary Miller and I have very much enjoyed our Manhattan study thus far. We’re making a lot of surprising discoveries, and the feedback we’ve gotten in the comments and on social media has been very helpful. Keep those comments coming!

One comment I heard repeatedly was that Dolan was the way to go with Vermouth if you have to choose just one. I picked up a bottle and I’m still on the fence. For the first study we used Martini & Rossi, which I’ve always used at home and (gasp) still like just fine. The Dolin was nice but I’m not sure I liked it any better or worse than the good ‘ole M&R. We’re going to be deconstructing this bit in the next installment, so more on that later.

For this session we started off with a counter full of rye bottles and a drive to find the perfect rye. After our last session we both concluded that we like rye whiskey better than bourbon in our Manhattans, and the Michter’s 10 year rye was the clear favorite of the lineup. We had been told on numerous occasions that we would love Rittenhouse in our Manhattans if we used Dolin instead of M&R, so we decided to keep that one in the lineup. We also added the new Kentucky Peerless Rye and a barrel strength Michter’s rye to the lineup and got to shaking.

We kept the same basic recipe this time: large side of the jigger of rye, small side of vermouth, two dashes bitters, shake with ice and strain then add a cherry. Again, we’re going to be looking at variations on this in the future, but right now we’re working on perfecting the bones of the cocktail as we see how the different parts interact with each other.

Here are our notes from that evening:

Michter’s 10 YO Rye 92.8 Proof

  • This was the winner last time
  • Leathery and buttery

Rittenhouse Rye 4 YO 100 Proof Bonded

  • Hot with no mouthfeel
  • Weak-tasting
  • I liked the flavor a little better with the Dolin but Rosemary liked it better with Martini & Rossi
  • The barrel entry proof on this rye is 125, so perhaps there is something to that in this particular cocktail

Kentucky Peerless 2 YO 107.4 Proof

  • Very bright and spicy flavor
  • Not overly complex but very nice with surprising tobacco smokiness
  • “Damn good Manhattan!” is how we both described it
  • There’s a lot of character here considering the age, which was a complete surprise
  • The barrel entry proof is very low with Peerless products, which has led us to believe that may be a contributing factor in this particular cocktail

Michter’s US-1 Barrel Strength Rye NAS 109.6 Proof

  • Buttery, spicy, creamy
  • Buttered corn finish

The Conclusion

Somehow proof and barrel entry proof were the standout factors here. If I recall, Michter’s is on the lower end of barrel entry proofs as well, so there may be something to this. The Michter’s Barrel Strength Rye was the clear winner tonight, but the surprise runner-up was the Kentucky Peerless rye. These will likely be our two top choices going forward with the study. What we’ve concluded at this point is:

  • Slightly higher proof seems to make a difference
  • The myth that age is “all important” is totally busted – a 2 year old rye beat a 4 year old rye, while the NAS Michter’s beat the 10 year Michter’s
  • “Whiskey makes a huge difference. You have to get the right one,” says Rosemary Miller

Photos Courtesy of Maggie Kimberl

Rosemary Miller also contributed to this story.