Like any guy at the bar, I have my go-to drinks. But when the winter wind starts blowing through Manhattan, it calls for something that’ll get rid of the chill in your bones.
So when I asked Matt Jensen, the bar manager at my favorite West Village watering hole, The Spotted Pig, for his best new cold-weather warmer, he whipped up a brilliant variation of the Manhattan itself. He swaps out the vermouth for amaro (as in a black Manhattan), then combines it with a rinse of boozy herbal liqueur (as in a Sazerac). Rich, aromatic, textured, and undeniably herbal, it’s the perfect festive cocktail to spice up icy December nights.
Jensen and his bartenders have taken to calling this cocktail "basically a Sazerac." My preferred name? The Midnight Manhattan.
2oz Rye Whiskey (Jensen uses Virgil Kaine Robber Baron Rye)
0.5oz Amaro Lucano
2 dashes of orange bitters
Yellow Chartreuse mount
How to Make It
1. Start by filling a tumbler with ice and water to get it cold.
2. Combine the whiskey, amaro, and bitters in a separate mixing glass and stir on ice.
3. Give it a good stir—this one needs some extra dilution, since it's not served on the rocks.
4. Empty the chilled glass and hit it with four big dashes of Yellow Chartreuse.
5. Toss and/or twist the glass—you want the Chartreuse to coat the entire inside. Then pour the prepared drink into the glass. Peel a lemon twist and express the oils onto the drink, then rub the twist around the glass and discard for service.
The final product should look like a glass that's half full of whiskey—no ice, no garnish.
Talking points (for when you're behind the bar)
"This is a big, boozy whiskey cocktail for manhattan and old-fashioned drinkers," Jensen says. "More specifically, it's a riff on a black manhattan crossed with a Sazerac. Like a black manhattan, it employs amaro as the modifying agent rather than vermouth. Like a sazerac, it's served ice cold but without ice, and tied together with a rinse of a massively herbal high-proof liqueur."
Yellow Chartreuse doesn't often show up in many cocktails, but it's worth the investment. It's hand-crafted by French monks from an ultra-secret recipe of 160 herbs, botanicals, and spices.
"Jerry Thomas, a legendary bartender who crafted many of the world's classic cocktails, often used a rinse of absinthe to tie a drink together when the ingredients weren't quite fusing correctly. He called this method 'fixing,'" Jensen says. "A Sazerac is simply a 'fixed' old-fashioned. The method works because absinthe is very high-alcohol, very high-sugar, and loaded with herbs. It softens and marries irritated ingredients."
In this Midnight Manhattan, the high-proof rye whiskey and bitter characteristics of the amaro are softened and married by the chartreuse rinse.