Holiday Gift Guide
Bensonhurst Cocktail

To heart shaped leaves, Winning personal bets, And faring as well as you this season!
– Graeme Robert Jamieson

An atmosphere of falling leaves, frosted breathe, houndstooth warmth, and hearty meals demands a cocktail that fits the mood. One’s cocktail should change with the seasons. This is really intuitive because similar to food, a cocktail for cooler months should leave the drinker with a feeling of warmth and hearty satisfaction. So shelve your Mojitos, Rickeys, Bucks, Juleps, and other summertime cocktails until the flowers’ next bloom, as autumn is a time for stiff drinks.

The Manhattan cocktail fits that bill. In addition to the classic cocktail pedigree, the drink embodies this time of year. The combination of American rye, sweet vermouth, and bitters is so simple yet delivers a complex taste and visually matches the foliage. The original version of the cocktail has been written about in depth. It is one of the classics, a minimum requirement for the cocktail savvy. So, I will focus on Manhattan’s derivatives, enhancements, and Brooklyn “cugini.”

There are many ways to enhance or improve the typical Manhattan. I enjoy rinses such as a single malt scotch (10 or 12 year Islay like Arbeg or Laphroig) to add smoky aromatics or Fernet Branca to bring extra herbal bitterness to the cocktail. These are just easy methods to amp up the typical recipe. Different types of bitters and a twist instead of a brandied cherry add to the flavor profile.

The best variation of the Manhattan that is being used as a veritable palette by mixologists is the Perfect Manhattan. In its basic form, the Perfect Manhattan is 2 oz of rye, ½ oz of sweet vermouth, ½ oz dry vermouth, 1 dash orange bitters, 1 dash aromatic bitters. Experimentation takes place on the vermouth side of the formula.

In the past five years, barkeepers have been tinkering with the traditional recipe, getting rid of the vermouths and substituting amaros, Chartreuse, maraschino, or another fortified wine like sherry. An elder Manhattan cousin, the Brooklyn Cocktail (which uses an orange flavored amaro called Amer Picon) is the original inspiration behind the proliferation of the Brooklyn “neighborhood” cocktails. I call them the cugini  (Italian translation for cousins) because amaros are the popular modifying spirit used to change the traditional Perfect Manhattan or Brooklyn Cocktail recipes.

The best of the cugini cocktails are the Red Hook (which uses Punt e Mes vermouth along with maraschino in lieu of dry vermouth), the Greenpoint (yellow Chartreuse in lieu of dry vermouth), and Bensonhurst (maraschino and Cynar in lieu of sweet vermouth).

So celebrate the Autumnal equinox with a stiff seasonal drink that is a tough enough drink worthy of their namesake neighborhoods.

The Greenpoint
By Michael McIlroy of Milk & Honey

2 oz Rittenhouse Bonded Rye
1/2 oz Yellow Chartreuse
1/2 oz Dolin sweet vermouth
Dash of orange bitters
Dash of Angostura bitters
Lemon peel garnish

Combine ingredients over ice, stir rigorously, and strain into cocktail glass, serve with lemon peel.

The Bensonhurst
By Chad Solomon formerly of Pegu Club
Pictured above

2 oz Rittenhouse Bonded Rye
1 oz Noilly Pratt dry vermouth
1/3 oz of Luxardo Maraschino
1 barspoon of Cynar

Combine ingredients over ice, stir rigorously, and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Lemon peel garnish is optional.

*Fredo Ceraso is the editor of the lounge lifestyle blog Loungerati. He is head cocktailian and a co-producer of The Salon parties. He is a member of the USBG New York and rolls drinks at many Lounge, Swing, Jazz Age, & Burlesque events in New York City.

**Got a cocktail question? Reach Fredo on twitter @loungerati, email me at fredo(at)loungerati(dot)com, or simply drop me a comment below!

***Paystyle will return in two weeks for his Happy Hour column and is delighted to have Fredo as a pinch hitter in the meantime.

Column: Happy Hour


  • Thank you Fredo for such an awesome post. I’m guilty of drinking Manhattans year-round, but you’re right, I must be more mindful of the seasons. They’re just so damn good!

    I’ll def be trying the Bensonhurst— the Cynar addition intrigues me.

    Looking forward to your next post!

    kayoko on

  • Fredo – First let me say welcome to UM. This is a wonderful post. I precisely share your sentiment that seasonality should be a primary consideration in one’s drinking patterns. And this applies to beer and wine as well as cocktails. This is why I especially enjoy places like PDT who are very keen on this point.

    Paystyle on

  • Payman and Kayako – thank you for letting me preach the gospel of seasonal cocktails! This is one ideology that goes down easy, especially with a Bensonhurst or two!

    Jessica – head over to the Varnish in the back of Cole’s French Dip in Downtown LA and ask for any of the Brooklyn cugini or a regular classic Manhattan, you will not be disappointed!

    Fredo on

  • A great post that made me a little homesick for NYC. You’ve inspired me to do something daring: order a Manhattan in LA. We’ll see what happens.

    Jessica on

  • Jessica – I second Freddy’s recommendation of the Varnish. Also right next door to Cole’s is the Association, which also makes wonderful cocktails, but is less a hush hush speakeasy vibe and more boisterous, club/loungey, perhaps most comparable to Employees Only in NY.

    There’s also the Edison, and the somewhat new Tar Pit on La Brea near Melrose, just south of Pink’s.

    Yes, I know LA quite well, thanks!

    Paystyle on

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published