Thanksgiving: an event so American even Donald Trump wouldn’t demand to see its birth certificate. Controversial history aside, it’s a holiday centred around our Stateside cousins’ favourite pastime. No, not high-calibre weaponry – patriotism! So this week we’re pulling up a Stars and Stripes-upholstered bar stool in celebration of America’s quintessential cocktail: the Manhattan.

Crafted from a triumvirate of veteran spirits – vermouth, rye whisky and bitters – the Manhattan’s roots reach back to New York’s Manhattan Club where, in the early 1870s, the cocktail is rumoured to have been invented at the behest of Winston Churchill’s mother (who was American-born, before a nation mourns a Brit tinkering with one of its founding fathers).

“It’s a classic,” says Dan Bovey, winner of the 2015 Wild Turkey Cocktail Competition. “And rye really is the key ingredient. It has a fantastic spicy flavour, unlike a bourbon which is made of mostly corn and lends a much sweeter taste.”

The ebb and flow of history, however, has seen the popularity of this cocktail wane, as that ingredient’s availability plummeted after Prohibition. But rye whisky’s recent resurgence (beyond America’s southern states) has inspired mixologists to resurrect the Manhattan, riffing on its core alchemy for more modern tastes.

“My version, the Ellis Island, takes its inspiration from both European and American ingredients,” says Bovey. “After all, Ellis Island was one of the main gateways for immigrants to come into America in the 1890s.”

Fusing rye, citrus bitters and an Italian liqueur called amaro, Bovey’s creation is a perfect balance of honey notes, piquancy and lofty aromatics. “Averna amaro is made from a recipe dating back to 1869,” he says. “It adds a thickness to the mouth-feel of the cocktail, as well as a bitter-sweetness that backs up the spicy notes of the rye.”

Though seemingly simple in its execution, it’s the details that make the Ellis Island worth a trip. “Garnish the cocktail with a length of orange peel,” says Bovey, “making sure to twist it over the surface of the drink, then drop it into the glass. This lends the drink its distinct aroma.”

This delicate harmony between ingredients lends the Ellis Island – and the Manhattan – its complexity and vitality, making it the perfect accompaniment to a sticky, wintry, good ‘ol slice of pecan pie. Yee-hah, as it were.

Dan Bovey Creating The The Ellis Island CocktailImage Credit: Curtis Gibson

Dan Bovey Creating The The Ellis Island CocktailImage Credit: Curtis Gibson

Dan Bovey’s Ellis Island (Serves 2)

Ingredients

80ml Wild Turkey rye whisky
40ml Averna
2 dashes orange bitters

Chilled Martini glass
Cubed ice
Orange peel to garnish

Instructions

  1. Pour the whiskey into a glass shaker, then add the Averna and orange bitters.
  2. Add some ice cubes and stir until the glass becomes frosty.
  3. Using a Hawthorne strainer, strain the drink into a chilled Martini glass or coupe.
  4. Garnish with a twist of orange peel.

From delicious to stratospheric…
“Try using Wild Turkey Rye 101 proof or, if you’re feeling particularly fancy, Russell’s Reserve Rye. Both have the signature rye flavour, but turned up to 11.”

Shopping list…
“American rye whiskies tend to pack a bit more punch and Wild Turkey really delivers on that desired spice. Averna adds a bitter sweetness to the cocktail – you could try this with another brand of amaro, but you may need to balance the sweetness slightly.”

You can find Dan Bovey serving up the bar at Bristol’s Be At One.