Black Manhattan

IMG_0295 Every chef I know has a love affair with whiskey.

Truth be told I was a gin girl before I became a professional cook. The minute I started working the line I developed a divine appetite for an ice cold beer and a shot of whiskey at the end of my shift. I worked hard. Really hard. My arms developed more burns than I can count, and sweat poured from places I didn’t even know existed, and the only thing that was going to wind me down at the end of my day was a shot of the hard stuff.

It’s no secret that my favorite cocktails have a predominantly bitter flavor profile. My last cocktails on earth would probably be a Sazerac, followed by a Negroni.

I first experienced this cocktail at Hibiscus restaurant in Dallas, Texas. I have frequented a lot of cocktail bars, and read a ton of books on mixology, and there’s no one in the business more passionate about all things boozy than their bar manager, Grant Parker.

A traditional Manhattan is made with whiskey (most commonly Bourbon or Rye), sweet vermouth, angostura bitters, and a lemon peel or cherry. This Black Manhattan differs in a few ways: Averna (a Sicilian liqueur) stands in for the sweet vermouth, and orange bitters adds the aroma that a citrus peel would provide. Averna is a Sicilian amaro (which means bitter in Italian), made from botanicals, citrus rinds, and finished with caramel. The end product is beautifully bitter, a little sweet, and shows notes of rich chocolate on the finish.

Parker uses Bourbon in his version, while I personally like the spiciness of Rye whiskey. You use what you like. His addition of orange bitters along with angostura is nothing short of brilliance.

This cocktail, garnished with an original Italian maraschino cherry, is worthy of any occasion or to finish any holiday meal.


Black Manhattan

  • 2 oz. Rye whiskey
  • 1 oz. Averna
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • 1 dash orange bitters


Combine ingredients in a steel cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Stir mixture until exterior is very cold, about 45 seconds to 1 minute. The drink is properly stirred when the exterior of the shaker develops frost and is cold to the touch. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with an Italian amarena cherry (splurge for these, they’re expensive and there is no substitute for them). Enjoy.

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