If you want a change from gifting Valentine’s Day flowers or candy, how about giving some liquid amber? No, not like the amber from Jurassic Park. I’m talking about some great Kentucky bourbon, like those produced by Four Roses.
Winter has already faded here in the desert, even while it ravages many places throughout the country. Sous Chef and I are seasonal drinkers, so we are about to move into our spring and summer drinks—the kind that are light and refreshing. But for those who still need a good toddy to offset the cold and rain, consider our winter favorite, the Manhattan. As noted many times in this blog, it is essential that cocktails are made from the very finest ingredients. Failure to do so results in disappointment, if not despair. So when it comes to making a great Manhattan, use great ingredients. This year we discovered Four Roses Straight Bourbon, a Kentucky bourbon whose production dates back to the 1860s. There are three bourbons currently available–Single Barrel, Small Batch, and Yellow—and we have tried all three straight and in cocktails. Sometimes it is hell being The Culinary Diva and having to engage in such critical but tasty research.
The Four Roses Single Barrel and Small Batch Straight Bourbons are exceptional on their own, either neat or on the rocks with some water as a chaser. The Single Barrel has woody notes, with maple syrup, vanilla, and spice on the nose and is full bodied on the palate, with a suggestion of dark fruit. The finish is long and subtle. The Small Batch has a hint of oak and fruit on the nose. It is definitely more subtle on the palate and finishes smoothly. But the real cocktail crowd pleaser is the Yellow. It is filled with light, bright fruits, has subtle hints of spice and creaminess on the palate, and finishes soft and smooth.
Purely for research purposes mind you, we did a side-by-side comparison of Manhattans made with the Four Roses Straight Bourbons. Though all three made good Manhattans, our clear preference was the one made with Four Roses Yellow. The other two bourbons really seem like great sipping bourbons and were too assertive for our taste when combined in this cocktail. Whereas the Yellow blended nicely and was willing to share the stage with the other ingredients.
Sous Chef modifies his Manhattans in a way that makes them an ideal Valentine’s Day cocktail. His Manhattan is like a symphony: the conductor is great bourbon like Four Roses; the violins are played by the vermouth, in this case the wonderful Carpano Antica; and the pesky flute is played by Angostura Bitters. But it is the guest accompanists that provide the full orchestral balance: fresh orange juice and Luxardo Cherries and its syrup. The result is a deep reddish libation, punctuated by dark red Luxardo cherries. This concoction has been a triumph whenever it is served to guests. And now that we have our own 5-liter wine cask, Sous Chef can hardly wait to see how the Manhattan develops after six weeks in oak. So this Valentine’s Day grab your bourbon bottle, mix up a batch of Sweetheart Manhattans, and let winter rage outside while romance blossoms within.
- 4 ounces Four Roses Yellow Bourbon
- 2 ounces Carpano Antica
- 4 dashes Angostura Bitters
- 1 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 teaspoon Luxardo Cherry Syrup (from bottle of Luxardo Cherries)
- 3 Luxardo Cherries to garnish each glass
- Place Four Roses Bourbon, Carpano Antica, Bitters, Orange Juice and Luxardo Cherry Syrup in a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Shake.
- Place 3 Luxardo Cherries in the bottom of a chilled martini glass. Pour contents of cocktail shaker in two martini glasses.