The first things that come to mind when I think of Fall is bourbon, including all the hustling that will be done just to acquire a few bottles, friends & family, my mom’s Thanksgiving dinner and Manhattans. The last of those commonly ties in well with the first three, along with football and a healthy dose of cold weather (if we’re lucky here in California).
Manhattans to me are richness in simplicity – a classic, full bodied cocktail that doesn’t boast a long list of obscure elements & flamboyant garnishes, plus all the ingredients are fairly easy to come by. If not the whiskey you’re using, the most important part of a Manhattan would be the sweet vermouth. Or in this case, a Quinquina called Byrrh. Categorized as an Amère, a Quinquina or Quina is a fortified wine, similar to a vermouth. Byrrh contains the herb chinchona bark (quinine) which gives it its, distinct dry, bitter taste. First produced in the late 1800’s in Thuir, the heart of French Cataln territory near the coast and border of Spain, Byrrh comes from the mistelle of Carignan and Grenache grapes that is then blended with neutral spirits, quinine & other herbs before aging 3 years in barrels. The result is a port-like, sweet red fortified wine that has a dry finish. Originally created for medicinal purposes, Byrrh, like many other fortified wines, became increasingly popular as an aperitif in Europe. Fast forward to 2015 and your more likely to find it in the trendier of cocktail forward bars and hipster whiskey establishments as opposed to solely the dinner table. Until recent years, Byrrh would have been hard to come by here in the States but thanks to Pernod, it is now being imported and distributed to select retailers.
Byrrh Grand Quinquina
ABV: 18% // 36 proof
Nose: Musty, brambles – vegetal. Boysenberry and Crème de violet. Wet moss covered oak and a little green olive.
Palate: Purple grape with the softest pillows of oak tannins on the back drop. Sweet red winey. Quinine bark makes itself known.
Finish: Dry and lightly bitter but not as dry as Bonal. More berry juice qualities are present, blueberries and boysenberry come back. Cranberry thats sweet not tart.
If your a fan of Manhattan’s or any variation to the cocktail then I highly recommend picking up a bottle of Byrrh. It will add a depth and complexity to your next Manhattan that your everyday M & R, Gallo or STOCK sweet vermouth will not. That being said if you aren’t a fan of a drier, bitter Manhattan then i’d recommend maybe adding a little of your “go to” vermouth with Byrrh to find a balance that satisfies your palate.
I used Wild Turkey 101 bourbon and Bulleit rye to experiment with a Byrrh Manhattan. WT101 in my opinion worked really well, due to the high rye content and of course the proof which helped balance out the dry, bitter qualities of Byrrh. Bulleit rye is a solid mixer in general as it has a super high rye content (95%) so it worked well up against Byrrh’s assertive profile. And just so you know, I enjoy my Manhattans in the classic sense, 2 – 3 dashes of Angostura bitters and 2 Luxardo Maraschino cherries – simple and straightforward.