The Manhattan is the drink that made me love whiskey. That’s saying a lot, since the first one I ever ordered cost about $5 from a bar that makes its money on PBR and Old Style. Still, I got hooked on the sweet, mellow flavor and soon began whipping up Manhattans at home with Four Roses Yellow Label bourbon and Dolin Rouge sweet vermouth.
I still love a classic bourbon Manhattan, but every now and then I splash a bit of Luxardo Maraschino in my glass. It’s a special treat; Luxardo is so sweet that it’s easy to overdo it, but when you get just the right amount, it can completely elevate a simple drink. The Kitchn’s 9-Bottle Bar series knows what’s up: its Red Hook cocktail combines elements from two of my favorite drinks, the Martinez and the Manhattan. I haven’t made the Red Hook yet, but it reminded me that I’ve been meaning to buy some rye to mix up my Manhattan game. And instead of a splash of Luxardo this time, I got fancy and made Luxardo-infused ice cubes. (And by fancy I mean a 5-year-old could do this. A really badass 5-year-old.)
Rye Manhattan with Luxardo Ice Cubes
2 ounces rye whiskey
1 ounce sweet vermouth
Dash of Angostura bitters
Luxardo ice cubes
To make the Luxardo ice cubes, mix one part Luxardo Maraschino liqueur with four parts water. (1 ounce of Luxardo mixed with 4 ounces of water makes about six standard-size ice cubes.)
Fill a shaker or pint glass with ice and add the rye, sweet vermouth, and bitters. Stir until well chilled. Strain into a lowball glass filled with two Luxardo ice cubes and two regular ice cubes. Garnish with a skewer of cherries.
This drink is definitely a belly-warming sipper, which gives the ice time to melt a little and infuse your Manhattan with a subtle cherry flavor. Feel free to add more Luxardo cubes if you’re a cherry fiend. Enjoy!
In my quest to find cocktails that utilize Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, I stumbled on a real gem: the Martinez. This subtly sweet drink gets its bite from a base of Old Tom gin, another one of my recent go-to liquors. If you’ve never had Old Tom, it’s a pre-Prohibition-era libation that’s what I assume gin would taste like in the 1920s. This old-school blend is lightly sweetened with sugar and aged in oak barrels—that’s what gives it it’s light-brown, bourbon-like color. At least that’s the case for the Ransom that I’ve been drinking. I can’t speak for many other brands, but Ransom’s Old Tom is great.
But enough about good ol’ Tom. The Martinez is kind of like a Manhattan-on-steroids when you look at the components: gin that resembles bourbon, sweet vermouth, maraschino, and a dash of bitters. For cocktails like this, the kind of sweet vermouth you use can really make a difference. When I first started making cocktails, I bought the kind that you can get at nearly every grocery store: $6 Martini Rossi. Then someone suggested Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry Rouge, which runs about $13/750mL at Binny’s. I can’t pretend to be an expert on vermouth, but what I do know is that Dolin is a lot smoother and lighter than cheaper stuff. But what really makes the Martinez so delicious is the added cherry kick of the Luxardo Maraschino. You can use less if you’re not a huge fan of cherry, but if that’s the case then you are a monster this might not be the drink for you. I, on the other hand, love me some maraschino.
Pour all liquid ingredients over ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a twist of lemon. If you’re feeling really crazy, you could swap out the lemon and garnish with a cherry. Warning: once you start making these, you will probably crave one around 7 p.m. every night. Enjoy! And sip slowly. (Or don’t. It’s your liver.)