When you spend an entire week in the French Quarter in New Orleans, there will be cocktails. Lots and lots of cocktails. Here is a modern take on a classic Manhattan.
In somewhat the same vein as the previous Sazerac at Arnaud’s French 75 Bar, this is another boozy, spirit-forward, deep and brooding cocktail…but just a bit more so. It also has Rye Whiskey, but here the exotic character in the Sazerac is altered,through bitters, a special type of vermouth, and barrel aging, into a cocktail that’s deep and dark and endless.
The Bourbon House, one of the restaurant jewels of the famous Brennan family, is an imposing place, perched on the corner of Bourbon Street and Iberville. Inside, it is grand, with soaring ceilings and rich colors of red and gold. First there is the Cafe, perfect for people watching. Then there is the Oyster Bar, adjoining the spirits bar, where you can get your Bourbon itch scratched any number of ways. A few steps further and you’re in another expansive room in the main restaurant. It us as complete as a restaurant can get: a Shrimp Po’Boy for lunch, the Oyster Bar for a quick dozen, the bar for cocktails, and the restaurant for fine dining.
The Bourbon House has claimed for some years to have the biggest and best collection of Bourbon and Rye whiskeys in Louisiana. A stroll around the establishment and a look at the list supports that contention. For cocktail drinkers, Bourbon House is popular for their Frozen Bourbon Milk Punch—although that may be affected by the liberal policy of to-go drinks in the French Quarter combined with some scorching hot days that make a frozen drink seem even more attractive than usual. Bourbon House also does a superior Mint Julep with Woodford Reserve as the Bourbon of choice. Whiskey lovers can also avail themselves of any number of flights based on different whiskey themes.
Bourbon House Barrel-Aged Manhattan
If you are looking for a sturdy whiskey cocktail with endless depth, a boozy flavor-packed combination of Old Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey (than which, better bargains do not exist) with sweet/bitter vermouth and Angostura Bitters, blended and aged in old bourbon barrels, this is the Manhattan for you.
The herbal spice of rye, with its leathery mouth-drying tannins and robust concentration from slow aging in charred barrels, extracting all those 400+ aromatics and caramelized sugars into a massively complex abundance of flavors, is enhanced with the addition of the equally impressive Punt e Mes.
Not for the faint of palate, Punt e Mes is vermouth plus. Literally. It is sweet red vermouth bolstered with Italian bitter aperitif (A point and a half, derived from a hand sign by hurried Bourse traders who wanted vermouth with a dose of bitters for backbone—Punt e Mes!), This is one of the few vermouths that can stand up to the audacity of Rye Whiskey and hold its own.
Add Angostura Bitters, blend, and age a bit longer in used barrels to allow the three components to meld together seamlessly, chill it, and serve it up—don’t even think about adding ice to this one!—for a cocktail that will amaze you with its force, power and surprising elegance.
Dark yet transparent, with heady aromatics of charred wood, caramel, molasses, vanilla oak, and fragrant dried herbs, the Old Rittenhouse 100 Proof packs a mighty punch. The Punt e Mes, rather than sweetening it, reinforces that punch, with the Angostura adding more nuances of bitterness and aromatic complexity.
Mind you, all three elements are alcohol-laced here; each of the three has its own powerful combination of aromas and flavors; and when they are mixed together and barrel-aged, blended seamlessly so that you don’t really know and can’t really tell where one ends and the other begins, you have a potent cocktail.
The Bourbon House Barrel-Aged Manhattan is one of the many variations on the classic Manhattan. Not for everyone, perhaps; but for those who love their rye whiskey, and the bolder the better, this one is about as good as it gets.