Bourbon. I love it. I also have had a long-standing love affair with citrus—especially orange or tangerine when it comes to baking, cooking or cocktails. The juice, zest and curly-cues of citrus rinds as well as the essential oils just make my skirt fly up. And, one of my favorite adult beverages is Jack Daniels and Ginger Ale. But, not just any ginger ale. Due to growing up in my native Michigan, as well as my undying loyalty and preference, the ginger ale simply must be Vernors Ginger Ale for both the effervescence and sharp ginger flavor. (Vernors Ginger Ale is a soft drink, and the oldest surviving brand of such in the United States. It was created in 1866 by James Vernor, a Detroit pharmacist. You can read more about Vernors here.) No other ginger ale measures up. Trust me.
So, when I decided to create a new twist on the original Manhattan cocktail made with bourbon for our New Year’s Eve celebration, ginger and orange immediately came to my bourbon-loving mind. Thinking I was perhaps the first to include Grand Marnier in a Bourbon Manhattan, a bit of research soon proved me incorrect.
It would seem that the Rat Pack Manhattan was created in 2000 by Wayne Collins at High Holborn, London, England in honor of the original Rat Pack which, as we all know, started with Humphrey Bogart in the 1950s. At different times, members of the Rat Pack included a number of famous Hollywood actors and singers to include Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop. Following Bogart’s death, Frank Sinatra assumed the role as leader of the Rat Pack and just happened to be a notorious Dry Manhattan lover.
Many surmise that Wayne liked the Rat Pack and named the cocktail after it. Supposedly, he originally used different whiskies to represent each member of the Rat Pack crooners. The wash of Grand Marnier was for Sammy Davis, Jr., the wild card of the bunch. The Rat Pack Manhattan is a Perfect Manhattan with a little French twist, Grand Marnier. In all actuality, the Rat Pack Manhattan is simply a Perfect Manhattan, with both dry and sweet vermouths, with bourbon along with a hint of orange that is barely noticeable as the wash.
As I found myself more intrigued, I pressed on with my research and learned about the Boulevard Manhattan, or simply the Boulevard. The Boulevard Cocktail is actually rather similar to the Perfect Manhattan with Grand Marnier in lieu of sweet vermouth. Supposedly, the Boulevard is an old classic cocktail with an unclear origin. Who knew? Certainly not me as I thought I had newly created it!Perfect Manhattan 40 ml straight rye whiskey or Canadian rye whisky 20 ml dry vermouth 20 ml sweet vermouth 1 dash Angostura bitter Stir all ingredients with a lot ice in a mixer glass. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry and lemon peel. Boulevard (aka Boulevard Manhattan) 50 ml bourbon 25 ml dry vermouth 10 ml Grand Marnier 1 dash orange bitters Stir all ingredients with a lot of ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of an orange peel (discarded) and two maraschino cherries.
Still, I read on to see if a clever soul had created a Bourbon Manhattan with ginger. Oh my stars, someone did!
But, had anyone created a Ginger-Orange Bourbon Manhattan Cocktail? My research tells me that I may indeed be the first.
For my top shelf recipe, I elected to go for sweet vermouth and settled on Carpano® Vermouth Antica Formula. According to Twenty Twenty Wine Merchants, Carpano® Vermouth Antica Formula is described as, “Vanilla, prune, candied cherries, orange zest, dates and raisins; Christmas pudding with a bitter-sweet edge; a magnificent product – perhaps the best sweet vermouth in the world. Certainly makes the best Negroni ever.” Need I say more?
There also was no need to fuss and extract juice from ginger root to infuse the ginger flavor for our drink. No, for the sake of expediency and simplicity, I reached for a fine ginger liqueur just as the creator of the above recipe did. Although the original Boulevard cocktail calls for dry vermouth, I have included options depending on your preference for either dry or sweet vermouth, or a blend of both for Perfect. Since I adore nutmeg, it is included as an optional garnish for the holiday season.
The verdict? Ah, sweet with candied orange notes yet spicy-ginger-warm with a hint of vanilla and all around bourbon-coziness. I was smitten. May the rest go down in history and be cocktail lore.
What makes our Ginger Boulevard cocktail recipe wicked good? Simply put, you cannot do better than this top shelf cocktail for a Bourbon Manhattan with a ginger-orange twist. Period.
- For the Cocktail
- Ice for cocktail shaker
- 2 ounces Blanton’s® Original Single Barrel Bourbon
- 1 ounce dry or sweet vermouth, or blend of both, we used Carpano® Vermouth Antica Formula
- ½ ounce Grand Marnier® Orange Cognac
- ½ ounce Domaine de Canton® Ginger Liqueur
- 1 or 2 dashes orange bitters, such as Regan’s®
- For the Garnish
- 1 maraschino cherry, with or without stem
- 1 orange peel twist
- Freshly grated nutmeg, optional
- Special Equipment
- Cocktail shaker or mixing glass with strainer, we like to use the mixing glass of our “old school” and German-made Boston Shaker which holds up to 16 ounces
- Chilled martini glass
Fill cocktail shaker or mixing glass with 3 or 4 cubes of ice; pour in bourbon, vermouth, liqueurs and bitters. Give cocktail a gentle stir so as not to bruise or cloud the spirits. Place cherry into chilled martini glass and strain cocktail over cherry. Place orange peel over drink and twist it to release the essential oils. Add twist of orange to rim and, if desired, grate fresh nutmeg over top.
Recipe can easily be doubled to serve two.