The Manhattan is my favourite cocktail. It's a bit like Michael Caines: timeless and classy, but also cheeky and a little rough around the edges. When I was putting togeter Nanban's cocktail menu, I knew a variant of the Manhattan had to be on there. But I wanted to keep the flavours true while giving it a distinctly southern Japanese twang.
Using Japanese whisky was an obvious choice. Not just because it would establish a Japanese theme but because the flavours in most Japanese whiskies just work - they tend to be subtle and smooth but still full of verve and character, like old leather-bound books. Once that was established, I started thinking about the drink's other elements: vermouth and bitters. How could I introduce a noticeably Kyushu flavour to them without disrupting the classic cocktail's perfect balance?
The answer, of course, is citrus. Not exuberant yuzu or puckering lemon, but someting sweeter and more approachable: good ol' orange. Kyushu is an absolute paradise of oranges, from the bright and aromatic satsuma to the candy-like dekopon. And since orange peel is already a typical garnish for the Manhattan, there's a precedent for it. In my 'Nanhattan', that orange note comes in three forms: peel, bitters and vermouth. I also added a tiny bit of shochu for its Kyushu character and earthy-fruity aroma. The result is warmingly familiar yet subtly exotic. And it is delightfully, dangerously drinkable.
- For the tangerine vermouth:
- 500ml white (dry) vermouth
- 1 tangerine, washed and cut into small chunks
- For the Nanhattan:
- 50ml Japanese whisky
- 15ml tangerine vermouth, or 10ml dry vermouth and 5ml orange liquour
- 15ml shochu (use aged shochu if you can)
- 1-2 dashes orange bitters (available at good liquor stores or online)
- strip of orange peel, trimmed of any white pith
For the tangerine vermouth:
Place the white vermouth and the tangerine in an air-tight bottle or jar (I just use the vermouth bottle after drinking a third of it). Give it a shake and leave to infuse at room temperature for 1-4 weeks, shaking it vigorously whenever you think of it.
For the Nanhattan:
When ready to serve, chill you cocktail glass with ice water or by sticking it in the freezer. Pour the whisky, tangerine vermouth, shochu and bitters into a cocktail shaker or jar with ice. Stir or shake for a minute or so. Strain into your chilled glass. Twist the orange peel about the glass and wipe around the rim, then drop it into the cocktail. Serve, enjoy, relax and have some kushiyaki.