At the moment, our country is definitely leaning to the right. I don’t mean in terms of political ideology but rather being tilted in public attention and current events towards our Atlantic coast.

It seems that the overall cultural impact of the West Coast has been dampened, temporarily muted, and what is coming from the East takes precedence. The “coolness” of the West Coast lifestyle has recently been overshadowed by a return to conservative or aggressive (you choose) business practices. New York is again the desired destination for those climbing social and corporate ladders, and the surplus of candidates desiring to be President of the United States are mostly Eastern Seaboard political types, with a smattering of individuals with a business-centric resume, but all from the East.

This entire political season, and it has been going on for a very long time, we’ve not heard a peep out those states from the Rockies to the Pacific. The tilt has been so dramatic to the right-hand side of America that I have a fear of all of us rolling off into the Atlantic.

Even on the cocktail circuit, New York is staking a firm claim to Home Plate. And no single entity has seen a greater resurgence of late than the Manhattan, the drink and the island.

Phil Greene, a native New Orleanian and distant relative to Antoine Amédée Peychaud of Bitters fame, has just released a new volume about Manhattan, the drink, that should settle all bets and give rise to some fun evenings with plenty of recipes.  

Phil starts his treatise on the Manhattan from a most interesting spot: vermouth. Vermouth is an essential ingredient in this cocktail and has been from the beginning.

Vermouth is an aromatized wine, which means there is a wine base (often using picpoul or trebbiano grapes, sometimes unfermented) to which is added alcohol and a secret array of botanicals – such as herbs, plant roots and even tree bark. The sugars in vermouth are controlled during the manufacture and the aging when the ingredients are fully involved and absorbed into the liquid.

Back to the topic at hand, the problem with a lot of historians passing out kudos for inventing the Manhattan is that vermouth did not arrive in America until the 1840s. So any reference before that to the Manhattan can be considered, according to Greene, bogus.

And then Greene seems to have some trouble with New Orleans laying claim for creating the drink. He does have a point about our alleged involvement since the Republican party convention in St. Louis in 1896 caused that city to demand that bartenders prepare all of their cocktails from scratch and the Manhattan is particularly noted. Before that, the drink is associated with the Italian immigrant community in California who embraced vermouth, just arrived from their homeland, as early at 1845.

Still, it does seem that vermouth had a very long and slow ramp-up to general usage in this country, and along that road, New Orleans, likely thanks to our own Italian immigrant community, played a key role. It is quite possible that an influential mixologist at the St. Charles Hotel and the Crescent Billiard Hall, Joe Walker, was on a trip to New York and found himself short of ingredients for a cocktail, in possession of only whiskey and vermouth, from which he mixed a drink.

And while our city has no qualms laying claim to inventing all sorts of drinks and activities, it seems the drink created by Walker, born in Montreal, then moved to New Orleans, and because of his business status, a frequent visitor to New York, could have been the first Manhattan.

As an historic addendum, both the St. Charles Hotel, covering the entire 200 block of St. Charles Avenue, and the Crescent Billiard Hall, 115 St. Charles Avenue, ain’t dere no more. The hotel sat on the plot of land now occupied by the high-rise Place St. Charles; and the Billiard Hall became the Pickwick Club, home to the Mistick Krewe of Comus.

The Manhattan cocktail of late seems to have many folks claiming birthing rights, but these likely do indeed belong to New Orleans in part if not in whole.

The Manhattan also gave rise to a trainload of other drinks, like the Dry Martini, the Martinez and even our very own, Vieux Carre – invented, we are certain, at the Monteleone Hotel in the French Quarter around 1937.

Traditional Manhattan

  • 2 oz.  Bourbon or Rye Whiskey
  • 1 oz   Sweet Vermouth
  • 2 dashes  Aromatic Bitters
  • Garnish – lemon peel or cherry


  1. In a mixing glass, stir all ingredients with large ice cubes.
  2. Strain into chilled cocktail glass.
  3. Add garnish.


Dry Manhattan

Same as above, except use dry vermouth, not sweet vermouth


Perfect Manhattan

  • 2 oz. Bourbon or Rye Whiskey
  • ½ oz. Dry Vermouth
  • ½ oz. Sweet Vermouth
  • 2  dashes Aromatic Bitters
  • Garnish – lemon peel or cherry


  1. In a mixing glass, stir all ingredients with large ice cubes.
  2. Strain into chilled cocktail glass.
  3. Add garnish.

The Vieux Carré

  • 1 oz. Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula Cognac, or other brandy
  • 1 oz  Sazerac Rye Whiskey
  • 1 oz. Martini Sweet Vermouth
  • 2  dashes Angostura’s Bitters
  • 2  dashes  Peychaud’s Bitters
  • 1  teaspoon Bénédictine 
  • Garnish –  lemon peel


  1. Fill heavy-bottomed rocks glass with large ice cubes.
  2. Add brandy, whiskey, vermouth, and bitters.
  3. Stir gently.
  4. Top with Bénédictine.
  5. Garnish


Thanks to Philip Greene, author, "The Manhattan, The Story of the First Modern Cocktail," published by Sterling Epicure, New York, 2016, 242 pages. Foreword by Dale DeGroff.

Also thanks to Phil Greene for the recipes.

While we are handing out kudos to Phil for penning another great volume, let me recommend at the highest level his previous book, "To Have and Have Another; A Hemingway Cocktail Companion."

Both books tell amazing stories, so much so that they read like historic novels with the added bonus of listing terrific cocktail recipes. Reading and drinking, what could be a better way to pass an afternoon? Well, yes, there is that, but you have to furnish some of that fun on your own. 




Read Happy Hour here on every Wednesday, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed at Also check out Last Call, Tim’s photo feature, every month in New Orleans Magazine.