This Orange Pomegranate Manhattan Variant includes the traditional whiskey (bourbon or rye) and red vermouth, but gets a modern twist with the addition of pomegranate molasses and orange bitters. The pomegranate molasses brings subtle tart fruit to a smooth and drinkable cocktail!
👩🏻🍳 Tamara Talks - What is a Manhattan?
History suggests the Manhattan was the world's most favorite cocktail shortly after it was created in the 1880s at New York City's Manhattan Club. Over the decades, this cocktail has waxed and waned in popularity until landing firmly as a cornerstone of the craft cocktail renaissance we're currently experiencing.
The classic Manhattan that one sips today remains essentially unchanged from the one sipped by socialites in the nineteenth century. The Manhattan's mix of whiskey (early versions had to be rye whiskey), sweet vermouth (Italian if you please), and angostura bitters is timeless and smooth... the quintessential sophisticated cocktail.
The classic recipe is simple: Two ounces of whiskey to one ounce of sweet vermouth, finished with a few dashes of Angostura bitters. Orange bitters (just a drop or two) have found their way into many Manhattans, and their bright flavor complements the other flavors nicely. A candied cherry is a typical garnish; Andersen Manhattan lovers prefer boozy blackberries.
So, how did I "land" on orange and pomegranate notes in my Manhattan variant? I love orange liqueur with bourbon. My husband and I made a batch of "orangecello" (orange version of limoncello) recently. It's lovely with bourbon. If you're a regular reader of Beyond Mere Sustenance, you know my love affair with orange and pomegranate - an orange pomegranate tequila cocktail, tequila poached pears, a pomegranate and blood orange vinaigrette, and more...
📋 Ingredients You'll Need
Here is a quick look at the ingredients in the recipe – it’s handy to use at the grocery store or as a summary of what you need. Skip to the recipe for quantities.
- whiskey - The earliest Manhattans were made with dry, edgy rye. We usually use bourbon in Manhattans, and love the mellow and smooth flavor it brings. You can use either in this variant. You do not need to use a "top shelf" brand. I always suggest using spirits that taste decent (if not amazing) if you pour a shot. We buy Maker's Mark or Old Forester for cocktails.
- sweet vermouth - Again, no reason to use "top shelf" sweet vermouth. We keep Martini and Rossi in our bar cupboard.
- pomegranate molasses - Many grocery stores carry pomegranate molasses now. If so, you'll probably find it in the international foods section. It's a key Middle Eastern pantry item, so you'll likely find it at a Middle Eastern grocery store. You can order pomegranate molasses on Amazon. Lastly, make homemade pomegranate molasses at home.
- orange bitters - I use Fee Brothers Orange Bitters, but there are many good brands available.
- orange garnish - On photo day, I did spirals with my excellent knife skills. 🤣 This Guide to Citrus Peel Garnishes has some great ideas. A good vegetable peeler, a channel tool, or a good paring knife will get the job done. If that's too much trouble, an orange slice is fine too!
- Prep - Gather your ingredients. You will also need a cocktail shaker or spoon, and rocks glasses.
- Make the Manhattan - Add the whiskey, sweet vermouth, and pomegranate molasses to your shaker or glass. Shake or stir well to combine. Either pour over an ice cube or add an ice cube.
- Finish - Add a few drops of bitters and garnish with an orange twist or slice as desired. Cheers!
What is the difference between bourbon and rye? Both are whiskeys, but they have very different flavor profiles. Bourbon must be made from a mash of at least 51% corn, it must be made in the US, and while there is no minimum aging requirement, it must be aged at least two years to be called "straight bourbon." Rye, on the other hand, needs to be at least 51% rye mash, but many are 95-100%.
One main difference between the two whiskeys is in their flavor profiles. Bourbon - because it's mostly corn - has a sweet, full-bodied taste. Rye has a somewhat spicy and very dry taste.
Which is better for the cocktail, bourbon or rye? We have enjoyed both immensely, but they do taste different. If you keep one or the other in your bar stock, I'd go with that one. If you're going to buy the whiskey, see the flavor differences above, and go with your preference.
This orange pomegranate Manhattan variant has become a favorite at Andersen casa. It's very complex, and not very sweet. The pomegranate molasses is more tart than sweet. I think you'll like it!