Bottle of Manhattan

Bottle of Manhattan

The idea of serving this iconic drink by the bottle came from Sam Spade, Dashiell Hammett’s hard-drinking private eye, who keeps a bottle of Manhattan in his desk to help him think through tricky cases (The Maltese Falcon, 1930). The practice of bottling cocktails goes back a long way and, although we’re skeptical about the claim of an 1883 advert – ‘A better cocktail at home than is served over any bar in the world’ (Heublein’s Club Cocktails, The Overland Monthly, 1883) – there’s no reason why this can’t be the case, it’s just a matter of using good ingredients, getting the ratios right and giving it a proper stir over ice before drinking.

The Manhattan was probably invented at New York’s Manhattan Club in the 1870s and itspopularity soon spread, but not everyone was impressed. In 1887 the London Court and Society declared it to be ‘insinuating and fatal … [it] works almost imperceptibly on the human animal, reducing him eventually to the consistency of a pulp. In any match between a man and a Manhattan cocktail you must recollect always that it is about ten to one on the cocktail’. Our recipe is adapted from William ‘The Only William’ Schmidt’s in his 1892 The Flowing Bowl: What and When to Drink, which calls for a dash of absinthe.

For how many? For a big bottle (enough for about 12 drinks)


  • 700ml bottle of good rye, such as Sazerac Rye, or bourbon, such as Four Roses
  • 350ml sweet (red) vermouth
  • 1/3 shot (1 ½ tsp) Pernod Absinthe
  • 1/3 shot Luxardo maraschino
  • 1/3 shot Angostura bitters
  • 1/3 shot sugar syrup
  • maraschino cherries and/or strips of orange peel (to turn into twists) to garnish
  • cocktail sticks


For the sugar syrup:

Usually we add sugar to cocktails in the form of sugar syrup (also known as gomme and gum). Over a low heat dissolve 800g of sugar in 400ml of water and leave to cool. Refrigerate and use as needed. It will keep for about a month. You can use different sugars, a brown sugar such as demerara can add a little more depth of flavour than plain white sugar, but might make the drink look a little murky.

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl or container and stir. You don’t need to use any ice. Use to fill as many bottles as you like – it could be one giant bottle or more smaller bottles. Serve with empty glasses (your finest cut-glass tumblers), some maraschino cherries, strips of orange peel and a glass or ice bucket full of ice. Tell people to put some ice in their glass, pour a slug of the Manhattan over the top and stir. They can then add one or more cherries and/or bend a strip of orange peel over their glass (skin side down) to spray some oil from the orange zest over the drink, twist the strip gently and drop in.

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