The Reverse Manhattan

A new favorite drink of mine is the “reverse manhattan,” which consists of the same ingredients as a regular Manhattan but with the quantity of the principle ingredients of whiskey and sweet vermouth reversed.  This means that you get a big pour of sweet vermouth and a smaller pour of whiskey, leading to a cocktail with lower alcohol content but a more pleasant aroma.

I got the idea from a blog post by Camper English on the science of dilution in which he mentions that Audrey Saunders has been experimenting with “inverted cocktails” in order to play with stronger and more complex aroma profiles. Apparently, the idea is that drinks with lower alcohol content will be more aromatic because there are fewer alcohol “clusters” in the drink that will attach to the aromatic molecules in a drink and lower the rate at which they might escape from the drink.  I have no idea about the science behind this hypothesis, but in practice I have noticed that lower alcohol content cocktails seem to have stronger aromas.

The reverse manhattan is also a drink that I think falls into the new family of suppressor cocktails that have recently become a trend in Atlanta. The idea is to construct cocktails with complex flavors that are low in alcohol by utilizing lower alcohol ingredients, such as wines, vermouths, and fortified wines. I’m particularly drawn to this class of cocktails because I often have to work in the evenings with a cocktail next to my laptop, and I often find myself driving home from the cocktail bar afterward. Thus it’s important to choose cocktails with low alcohol content.

Most suppressor cocktail recipes that I’ve seen use a fortified wine like sherry as a base. That means that the reverse manhattan is still a little bit stronger than most suppressors, but can still have quite a lot of complexity depending on your choice of each specific ingredient. A high quality sweet vermouth, like Carpano Antica, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, or Vya is essential. I’m still exploring, but the choice of whiskey and bitters also has an important effect. There are so many combinations to try that I’m sure this is something I’ll be trying different variations on for quite awhile.

The Reverse Manhattan

  • 2 oz Sweet Vermouth (Carpano Antica works well)
  • 1 oz Rye Whiskey
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
I usually skip the garnish, but a brandied cherry would work well.