Esquire & Jefferson’s Manhattan: Barrel Finished Cocktail

Jeffersons, Bourbon Manhattan, liquorI have vivid memories of my parents drinking Manhattans on the rocks on special occasions when I was a child. I would beg for the Maraschino cherry (of course) and thought the taste of the booze was disgusting. I still thought Manhattans were gross until a few years ago when my husband made one. I asked for a sip and it was a different world. I don’t know what changed in my tastes, but something sure did. Now I order bourbon Manhattans (usually Makers Mark) all the time. It’s my go-to drink in the cooler months.

A Manhattan is typically made with whiskey, sweet vermouth, bitters and a Maraschino cherry. According to Wikipedia whiskeys commonly used include rye, Canadian whiskey, bourbon, blended whiskey and Tennessee whiskey. There is a lot of speculation where and when the cocktail was created. One theory is that the drink originated at the Manhattan Club in New York City in the early 1870s, but that has been discredited so who really knows?

Last spring Esquire and Jefferson’s Bourbon launched a collaboration: The Manhattan: Barrel Finished Cocktail. The pre-batched cocktail was conceptualized in 2013 by Esquire‘s Editor-in-Chief David Granger and Jefferson’s Bourbon founder Trey Zoeller. They joined forces to provide bourbon enthusiasts with a barrel-finished bottled cocktail that enhances the experience of enjoying the classic.

Granger and Zoeller were in search of delicious, oaky notes and a well-balanced flavor profile. So the duo and a slew of lucky Esquire staffers (I want that job) tested dozens of recipes until they narrowed down the options to just three recipes. All three options were then aged for 90 days in bourbon barrels and re-tasted to see which one stood out as a superior Manhattan. The finished product is comprised of six-year-old bourbon – 125 proof cut down to 82.3 – both sweet and dry vermouth, and barrel-aged, spiced cherry bitters.

Simply pour it over ice, strain over ice for the straight-up version or just chill and drink straight from the bottle (kidding).

Jeffersons, cocktail on the rocks, Bourbon Manhattan

“What I enjoyed most about making this Manhattan with Esquire was the collaborative process of creating a well-rounded cocktail that elevated the typical bourbon drinking experience,” said Trey Zoeller. “It took us over two years of experimentation and communication to hone in on a drink we’ve always wanted at our home bar but was never easily available, and we were finally able to create something that is both innovative and accessible.”

Jefferson’s Bourbon was founded in 1997  by father and son team Trey (son) and Chet (father) Zoeller. Chet is a famed bourbon author and historian. Their collection of bourbons are made in tiny batches. The two seek out new and aged barrels of bourbon from established distilleries that have perfected distilling over hundreds of years. Then they do some old-fashioned experimenting and tweaking, building balance and adding complexity through different methods  and processes until they find the taste Jefferson’s is now known for. To see the whole Jefferson’s portfolio and learn more about their bourbon visit jeffersonsbourbon.com.

– Lauren Dimet Waters

Sample provided for review months ago, but I was finally able to try it myself (post surgery) so opinions are my own. My husband has been sipping it for a while now and he agrees with the above.

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