The warming brown spirits we embraced during the long cold winter aren't as palatable when the mercury flirts with double digits.
Still, the clink of ice in a glass is one of those refreshing sounds that taunt our senses. There must be some way to bring together a rocks glass and our favorite whiskey, right?
How about a Manhattan?
I'll throw down a recipe below, but be warned, you may have to talk your bartender through this classic. True mixologists are harder to come by in Savannah than a gnat-free summer day. Most of these hard workin' guys and girls behind the bars are relegated to yanking a tap handle or dispensing shots.
Be patient. If you and I keep ordering classic cocktails, we may even raise the bar, no pun intended.
For my Manhattan, I chose Woodford Reserve. This Kentucky bourbon hit shelves in 1996 despite being connected to the circa 1812 Woodford Reserve Distillery, the nation's oldest and smallest whiskey distiller.
In that time, the brand has won dedicated followers and emerged as the nation's faster growing super-premium bourbon. It has even captured the honor of "Official Bourbon of the Kentucky Derby." Not a bad feat in a state where bourbon distilleries stand warehouse to warehouse less than an hour's drive from the fabled Twin Spires of Churchill Downs.
Why Woodford Reserve over legendary Maker's Mark? Woodford does not carry a year of aging -- like Maker's -- master distiller Chris Morris pulls and blends from premium barrels when the whiskey tastes right, not when the calendar says it's ready. It's a true small batch production, which means more attention to detail and more influence from the master distiller.
All that care and attention to the process yields bourbon that offers more than 200 discernible flavors. This makes it a wonderful sipping whiskey -- drop a single ice cube into a couple of ounces to help open up the flavors. Let it gently wash across your tongue -- first one to 200 flavors wins!
This kind of complexity also lends itself to making better mixed drinks, like the Manhattan. I tasted Woodford Reserve neat and mixed. Neat, it is luxuriously caramel with that touch of vanilla sweetness I so admire in bourbon. A hint of oak suggests a pedigree; an earthiness calls to mind the region and its clear spring water, tobacco fields and tall stalks of corn.
My Manhattan did get a "ramp up" to become a French Manhattan -- featuring Woodford Reserve and Chambord, the raspberry liqueur. A new recipe has resulted in a 25 percent reduction in sugar in this product, which also makes it an excellent aperitif or digestif.
Here's the recipe to share -- a bright, refreshing and cool Woodford Reserve French Manhattan:
2 oz. Woodford Reserve
1 oz. Chambord
Dash of bitters
Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a cherry.
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