Several times this month, I’ve ordered a dry Manhattan and had the bartender give me a blank look and ask what goes in it. Sigh. “How dry do you want it?” Acceptable question. “How do I make it?” No.
I realize that variations on drinks exist: Drinksmixer.com lists two different dry Manhattan recipes (one of which includes an olive. Olives do not belong in my Manhattans). Esquire swears that bourbon Manhattans are unacceptable, rye is the only way to go. The Intoxicologist (brilliant name) has a recipe for a sweet Manhattan, which I’ve never seen anywhere else. I’m intrigued by the bar spoon of syrup from the maraschino cherry jar.
When I ask for a dry Manhattan, I expect dry vermouth. ONLY dry vermouth. Even the vintage recipe above offers misguidance on that front. A Perfect Manhattan contains half sweet, half dry vermouth, according to the Mr. Boston Official Bartender’s Guide. Either way, my Manhattan should have bitters and a cherry. I confess a preference for bourbon, usually Knob Creek. Do I expect bartenders to know my bourbon preference? No. Just the difference between classic, perfect, and dry.