Bandwagoneering: White Manhattan

Talking to bartenders, reading blogs, I’ve noticed a trend rising over the last several months: you take a classic whiskey cocktail, such as the Manhattan or the Sazerac, and you swap in an unaged (“white”) whiskey for the brown stuff. If you’re not familiar with white whiskies, they’re nothing more than unaged whiskies that have never seen a barrel. Spirits straight from the still, and cut with water (in most cases). You can say they’re like moonshine, but the key point here is that moonshine by definition is illegal. As my friend Matthew Rowley wrote, “If you can you buy it in liquor stores, it’s not moonshine.” (For more information: Simonson, Clarke, Cecchini, Rowley)

Legal white-dog whiskies, as the unaged stuff is called, aren’t exactly new to the market. I tasted some at Tales of the Cocktail in 2008. But they’ve been slowly gaining ground among bars and consumers since then and started making their way onto cocktail menus. As I mentioned above, one popular way is to replace the brown spirit in a classic whiskey drink with a white. I wanted to riff on this, but instead of using a white dog, I chose Bols Genever. It’s a favorite in our household, a malty botanical spirit that’s the precursor to modern gin. Bols tastes uncannily like whiskey, so I thought it would play well in this type of preparation. I tried a couple of different ideas–one using Carpano Antica vermouth–to re-create the Manhattan cocktail, but this is the one we liked best.

Nieuw Amsterdam

Stir, squeeze on lemon peel, discard peel.

Nieuw Amsterdam

photograph © Jennifer Hess

3 thoughts on “Bandwagoneering: White Manhattan

  1. I did something similar a couple of weeks ago, switching Ransom Old Tom for my usual rye in a Manhattan. I certainly enjoyed the gin more than I would have in any other application, but the drink didn’t quite do it for me overall. Guess I’m just a brown spirit kind of gal.

  2. I did a similar riff last week, but using a brown(ish) gin. We visited the Victoria Gin distillery and bought a bottle of aged gin. I believe the distiller told us he ages it 3 months in oak. In a Manhattan it had a crisp, refreshing character that went down extremely well in the summer heat. In fact, when compared to our usual bourbon Manhattan, the bourbon version seemed much too sweet.

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