Woodford Reserve tasked six Dallas mixologists with stirring up creative twists on the classic Manhattan cocktail during a special event for restaurant and bar industry insiders.
Traditionally the Manhattan is two parts rye or bourbon, one part sweet vermouth, and a couple dashes of aromatic bitters for a hint of spice. The requirements for this cocktail showcase were fairly simple: Dream up an original recipe with Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey as the primary ingredient. The bartenders could add to that up to seven more ingredients — including drops and dashes but excluding garnishes and zests.
Alex Fletcher, Eddie Eakin, Matt Orth, Mike Steele, Fernanda Rossano and Kendyll Clark (in absentia) were the chosen ones. Rossano did a grilled banana bourbon infusion with a bit of chocolate bitters and sweet vermouth. Eakin infused the Woodford Reserve with Dragon Pearl black tea, added some sweet vermouth and fig cordial, and garnished with a tea-soaked fig.
Fletcher’s Manhattan had saffron syrup, which he blended with an Italian fortified wine, and two dashes of Angostura bitters with a twist of lemon oils. Steele played with a cardamom- and clove-infused dry vermouth, sweet vermouth, and plum bitters as an aromatic.
Orth’s version had persimmon-infused sweet vermouth, with drops of orange and tiki bitters. The cherry on top was rolled in toasted walnut and turbinado sugar. Clark’s rendition, prepared by fellow bartender Christian Armando in her absence, played on the bitter and floral aspects of the Manhattan by adding a bitter aperitif, sweet vermouth and Chinese five-spice bitters.
Brian McCullough and Rich Allison served as the grand poobahs of this bourbon fest, and they jotted down tasting notes as each round was presented. While the mixologists made their drinks behind the bar, attendees noshed on crispy pork belly, blue cheese grits, onion dip and house-made chips, arancini, and tacos al pastor. DJ JT Donaldson provided the event soundtrack.
On the enclosed patio, Boardroom Salon for Men staff members gave out complimentary hot shaves and beard trims. In addition to celebrating the Manhattan, Woodford Reserve wanted to honor the close of Movember.
In the end, McCullough and Allison declared Orth’s Manhattan their favorite, although everyone on this special evening was a winner — especially those whose only job it was to sit back, relax and enjoy a nice bourbon cocktail.
CRAFT CAREFULLY. DRINK RESPONSIBLY.
Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 45.2% Alc. by Vol.
The Woodford Reserve Distillery, Versailles, KY ® 2014