Bourbon is in Bill Samuels Jr.’s blood — his father founded Maker’s Mark in 1954. But it took him 30 years to find his bourbon-centric drink of choice. His mother and father were decidedly fans of old-fashioneds, but Samuels ultimately settled on the manhattan, to which he adds fresh cherry juice, among other specific ingredients.
“I really didn’t like anything other than Maker’s Mark and water,” he says. “I kept exploring and, well, if Dad liked the old-fashioned, maybe I could like the manhattan. The classic manhattan recipe…I never did get to where I liked it.”
Wanting to put a personal stamp on his family’s bourbon tradition, Samuels worked with his master distiller to create Maker’s 46, which used seared French oak planks to help bring out flavors like caramel and spice that differentiate it from the original Maker’s bourbon.
Samuels started with Maker’s 46 for his manhattan, and began experimenting with vermouths. Italian vermouths just didn’t agree with his tastes due to their slight bitterness, so he opted for a sweet French vermouth, Dolin’s Rouge, which provided a much better balance. Samuels also discovered adding a bar spoon of cherry juice helped give the drink a distinct natural sweetness. The final adjustment: no bitters. “I did go through a long period of experimenting with different bitters,” he says. “None of them helped; most of them hurt. Balanced cocktails that showcase all of the ingredients equally and in harmony will win the day.”
When not craving the modified manhattan, Samuels opts for a simple Maker’s Mark and glass of water.
Though Samuels is more likely to invite over a few friends to his home for drinks these days, a few of his favorite spots in New York City to grab a Maker’s 46 manhattan are The Bailey in the financial district and midtown’s American Whiskey.
The recipe for the drink is listed below, and Samuels has a few words of wisdom to take into account: “Be precise on the measurements. Follow the recipe unless you’re a professional bartender.”
Bill Samuels Jr.’s Maker’s 46 Manhattan
1 1/2 parts Maker’s 46
1/2 part Dolin Rouge Sweet Vermouth
1 bar spoon of natural maraschino cherry juice
1 natural maraschino cherry for garnish
Combine all ingredients over ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.