From Manhattan to Southie

Nexus of the Universe

1 1/2 oz Rye Whiskey [Rittenhouse]
1/2 oz Cranberry Liqueur [Grand Ten]
1/2 oz Amaro Montenegro
1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth [Dolin]
Few dashes Black and Blue bitters [Black Cloud Bitters]

Stir with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with cherries.

One of my favorite things about making cocktails is inspiration can come from anywhere.  Maybe a drink I had at a bar, or something from out of one of the books on my shelf.  As my network of fellow drinkstagrammers and bloggers continues to grow, I can barely keep up with all the drinks I bookmark for later consumption.  

A few days ago a drink on Frederic Yarm’s indispensable Cocktail Virgin Slut blog caught my eye (sort of a throwback for me, as his site was really my first source ever of online inspiration).  He posted the Mulberry Bend, which was a Manhattan inspired variation using Cynar and Apricot Liqueur.  From that drink, I took the whiskey-amaro-vermouth-fruit liqueur template and ran with it.

Since I didn’t have any Cynar on hand, I needed another amaro.  Amaro Montenegro recently made its return to my bar, and its presence was sorely missed, so it got the call. It’s more floral and sweet than Cynar, so some balance was needed from the liqueur. A perfect time for Grand Ten Distilling’s cranberry liqueur.  The tartness of this one would be a nice counterpoint to the Montenegro.  Not wanting things to get too puckery, I opted for a Blanc Vermouth instead of dry.  Some Black Cloud Bitters Black and Blue bitters would up the berryness even more.


I’ll admit, I had high hopes for this one.  In my head, this seemed like a winner.  I stuck with Frederic’s 3:1:1:1 ratio, took a sip and… nope.  Something was amiss.  I even called in Mrs. Muddle for a second opinion.  A few more sips and we both agreed the main issue was it was too dry.  Both the floral notes of the Montenegro and the berries from the cranberries were almost non existent.  This is not the drink I was looking for.  But it was close. Then I wondered what a simple switch to sweet vermouth would too.

Wow, what a difference!  This went from a dry, relatively one note drink to a rich, complex sipper with lots of layers.  The cranberry liqueur really has room to stretch its legs now.  Berries and malts are present on the nose.  Floral notes from the Montenegro struggle to break through.  It is full bodied on the sip, with some rye spiciness.  There is a richness from all the berries.  Montenegro and cranberry keep things tart, providing some welcomed high notes.  The  swallow is smooth and round, and coats the tongue as it goes down.  A real fireside sipper (too bad winter is over).

For the name, you’ll have to bear with me a bit.  Frederic’s cocktail was called Mulberry Bend as a reference to its quasi-Manhattan template.  There are numerous variations on the Manhattan, all using different neighborhoods of New York as a name (Red Hook, Greenpoint, Canarsie).  I wanted to go that route, but give it a Boston twist since I’m using a bottle from Grand Ten Distilling, which is from South Boston.  Now South Boston is not a very compelling name, but the distillery is located on Dorchester Ave, just a few blocks north of where it intersects with Dorchester St.  So it’s near the corner of Dorchester and Dorchester.  How can a street intersect with itself?  That very question was once asked by a big-haired hipster doofus on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and his conclusion was that he must be at the Nexus of the Universe.

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