The Spirited Traveler: A Manhattan in Manhattan

By Kara Newman

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - I'm not quite sure when New York became such a whiskey-drinker's paradise, but I'm certainly glad that it did.

And to me, that means one thing: access to a myriad of excellent Manhattans across the borough of Manhattan (as well as Brooklyn and certain areas of Queens).

The standard Manhattan is made with two parts whiskey (some will argue for Bourbon, others for rye), one part sweet vermouth and a couple dashes of bitters.

According to New York-based cocktail historian David Wondrich, the Manhattan probably dates to the Manhattan Club, an 1870s social club then located at Fifth Avenue and 15th Street.

There's also a popular story that says the drink was invented by Winston Churchill's mother and served at a banquet, but according to Wondrich "that's absolute hooey."

There's no shortage of places to try out a Manhattan, but here are some spots to check out while you're in town: At Employees Only (http://www.employeesonlynyc.com), a speakeasy-style West Village bar, tipplers can try both a classic Manhattan (rye based, with a splash of Grand Marnier) as well as the Contemporary Manhattan variation (made with Bourbon, and garnished with brandied cherries). You can't go wrong either way.

Meanwhile, Midtown meat-eaters will enjoy Keen's Steakhouse (http://www.keens.com/), a dark-paneled steakhouse known for its dry-aged steaks, substantial whiskey list and business-lunching clientele.

Those doing business in the financial district can easily hop a cab to Ward III (http://www.ward3tribeca.com/) in Tribeca for a Manhattan (choice of Bourbon or rye), or any number of "bespoke" cocktails riffing on that theme.

Since New York's drinking scene has made a strong leap over the East River, any search for the ultimate (Bourbon-based) Manhattan ought to include a pilgrimage to Char 4 (http://charno4.com/)

in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.

Select from more than 150 American whiskeys for your Manhattan, and perhaps an order of Bourbon-spiced peanuts on the side. Bourbon or rye? Lemon twist or brandied cherry? You decide.

Luckily, if there's one thing New Yorkers like more than a good cocktail, it's arguing over the best way to drink it.

RECIPE: Manhattan Cocktail

If New York isn't on your travel itinerary, here's how to make the classic cocktail at home.

2 ounces whiskey (such as Rittenhouse 100-proof rye)

1 ounce sweet vermouth

2 dashes Angostura bitters

1 lemon twist, for garnish

In a mixing glass, combine whiskey, vermouth and bitters. Add ice and stir until chilled ("use a lot of ice, and just waltz it around," Wondrich advises). Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with lemon twist. (Manhattan Cocktail recipe reprinted with permission from Speakeasy: Classic Cocktails Reimagined, from New York's Employees Only Bar by Jason Kosmas & Dushan Zaric published by Ten Speed Press, available online)

(Editing by Peter Myers and Paul Casciato)

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