JUSTIN ELLIOTT - QUI (Austin, TX)
"Look, I don't come here to bury the Manhattan Cocktail. Especially in its ideal form -- rye whiskey, plenty of Italian vermouth, aromatic bitters, stirred, and straight up -- this is one of the simplest and most sturdy of all the Golden Age classics, which is why it managed to survive through Prohibition and the even darker years that followed, albeit in an often neutered, bourbon-centric form. But that's the thing: it's become completely ubiquitous; it's a signifier of drinking cocktails as much as it gets to be consumed as an actual cocktail, and by that metric it is DEFINITIVELY 'overrated'. It's the steak frites of cocktails: usually a delight, but nearly never transcendent."
"The elevator pitch here is that this cocktail is a Rum Manhattan (though, as a bigger fan of this drink, I prefer to think of the Manhattan as a Whiskey Palmetto). I take mine with an aged Rhum Agricole (the Neisson Élevé Sous Bois is a personal favorite) which imparts some of the typical notes of well-aged rye whiskey (grass, cocoa, spice) but in an even more dynamically-structured, damn-near-technicolor kind of way. Instead of flavoring whiskey with some Italian vermouth, here, the rhum and the vermouth -- all spice and herb and cocoa -- play off of each other, creating an even more intense whole."