Seattle’s creative bartenders are continually making enchanting new cocktails. It can be easy to forget most are also amazing at churning out classic cocktails—and often make tweaks, adding a personal touch to the drink. Take the Manhattan, for instance: A true classic with a strong and simple beauty, and a wonderful warming choice during the colder, drearier months. Here are five of our favorites:
I call this “Nick’s Manhattan,” as it was created by past bar manager Nick Barkalow (who still is slinging drinks on Sundays). If you’re looking for a traditional Manhattan, this one hits the spot starting with rye, Angostura bitters and an orange twist. For the vermouth part of the trio they use Berto Rosso, which has a combination of holiday spices, licorice and citrus notes elevates the taste to higher heights. Pair it with owner Michelle Magidow’s incredible German chocolate cake and your life may never be the same.
Oppenheimer, Chipotle Manhattan
This downtown whiskey emporium has a whole “Manhattan Project” with four fascinating options, so you know they take the legendary cocktail seriously. And while trying all four (maybe come in with four friends?) is a worthy goal, we lean towards this choice. It has Old Overholdt rye for the base, Italian vermouth Punt e Mes and a house-made chipotle bitters. It’s those bitters that score, with hints of spice that set this version apart.
Lucinda’s Grain Bar
A charmingly cozy Ravenna spot with a collection of intriguing takes on classics (including a Barley Old Fashioned bourbon lovers won’t want to miss), Lucinda’s Grain Bar pushes the Manhattan tradition south, subbing in smoky mezcal for whiskey—and it works a treat. Ramazzotti Amaro is used for the vermouth component—its mingling of roots, herbs and orange always come in handy—with Dubonnet’s fruit-and-quinine light bite added in as the final element.
The Smokey Manhattan
This downtown bar’s swell version of the NYC-named drink has Elijah Craig bourbon, deliciously celebrated Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth and Angostura bitters, but that’s just the start, as it arrives on a platter with a smoke-filled upside-down-glass, a smoke-topped mini-carafe containing the drink and a cherry lemon garnish. Right in front of you, the bartender upturns the glass, releasing fragrant smoke, before pouring the Manhattan in—it’s a drink and a show!
Lost and Found
Life on Mars
Up on Capitol Hill, we find the only non-Manhattan-in-name version, though the description calls it “a down to earth Manhattan.” Bartender Kraig Rovensky starts with bold and spicy Redemption Rye, then adds artichoke-based and botanically minded amaro called Cynar along with Cocchi Americano, an aperitif-y vermouth that Rovensky says brings “a nice bitter and honey earthy backbone with light floral sweetness that balances harmoniously with the rye.”