January 2016 was a month of failures—from over-proofed seeded rye bread to a vegan, gluten-free red wine cake that collapsed into crumbs as soon as I took it out of the pan. There were a few personal failures, too, but I’m not ready to talk about those just yet. February, the month of love, is the perfect time to embrace all forms of that trickiest of emotions. This month on Lexi Bites, I’ll be exploring aspects of love through recipes packed with chocolate, booze and a little spice. First up: the Black Manhattan.
This quote speaks to me so deeply right now, because it allows me to push past the fear of failure and embrace the spirit of growth that is to come. I admire Joy for her grace, wisdom and her ability to enjoy a stiff whiskey drink. Joy, this Black Manhattan is dedicated to you.
I only recently encountered The Black Manhattan. I was sitting at a favorite local bar, The White Rabbit, when the man sitting at the bar next to me ordered one. I’m always been a big fan of the classic manhattan, made with rye whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters, which dates back to the 1870s. The Black Manhattan, with complex Amaro in place of vermouth and Black Walnut Bitters instead of Angostura, is a darker, edgier, and dare I say, sexier, version of the original.
Amaro is a bittersweet Italian herbal digestif liqueur made from herbs, roots, bark, flowers and citrus peel. The spirit is mixed with sugar syrup and cask-aged. Some of the more well known, commercially produced varieties of Amaro include Averna and Ramazzotti. Fee Brothers’ Black Walnut Bitters provides an essential nutty component that softens the bitterness of the Amaro and the spiciness of the rye whiskey. A twist of orange peel and a cherry elevate the entire cocktail to a refreshing, surprising finish.
This version of the Black Manhattan is a riff on the one crafted by White Rabbit mixologist, Lilith Baier. She’s done an incredible job at reinventing the bar’s cocktail menu with classic and contemporary cocktails. This February, instead of fearing failure, let’s honor the growth and future success it can bring. Or, when all else fails, pour a big, stiff drink! Thirsty for more? For another cocktail inspired by my friendship with Joy, check out the Jameson Ginger Smash.
- 2 ounces rye whiskey or bourbon
- 1 ounce Amaro
- 1 dash Black Walnut Bitters
- 1 orange peel twist, for garnish
- Luxardo or Maraschino cherry, for garnish
- Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add whiskey, Amaro and Black Walnut Bitters. Shake until chilled, about 20 seconds. To serve up, strain into a martini or coupe glass. Or serve over ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with orange peel twist and cherry.