Garnishing a Manhattan

The earliest Manhattan recipes call for a lemon peel but while the Dry Manhattan continues to be garnished with a twist, the more commonplace Perfect and Sweet Manhattans are now generally garnished with a maraschino cherry.

Maraschino and American whiskey (bourbon or rye) are a match made in heaven – so much so, that some like to add a small spoon of cherry syrup from the jar to their mixing glass so subtly sweetening and influencing the cocktail.

The trend towards garnishing with a cherry rather than a twist arose circa 1890 and is documented in a piece titled "A Cherry in Your Cocktail" in an 1891 edition of the The Kansas City Times.

" 'A Manhattan cocktail?' queried the expert, in answer to this interpolation between his fluent sentences. 'And not too sweet!' Ah yes, great drink, that! One moment! The; the lemon still it, you know! A cherry in your cocktail, of course! We all have to do hat now. Just where or when it started I can't say. But talk about style! There you are! Some one of the first class places did it; and we all had to do it. Rather expensive that! A jar of cherries used to cost a dollar, but the demand has put then up 25 per cent. The bars couldn't cut them now if they went up out of sight. Speaking of – what was that word? 'Renaysance?' Thanks. Why wouldn't it be a natural step from a cherry to a cherry bounce, and then you would have an old favorite as an entering wedge to the revival."It is a fact that it is the almost universal expectation among cocktail drinkers in Gotham to find a cherry at the bottom of the glass. The innovation was made according to an authority on such matters not more through a desire to offer this staple of the fruitier as an incitement of custom as in the nature of something to tone the stomach, and the acid in the cherry vitiate the effects of the stimulant.

Kansas City Times, 15/March/1891

George J. Kappeler's 1895 Modern American Drinks was the first bar guide to mention a cherry as the garnish for a Manhattan, but it was still very much a secondary suggested choice – "Add a piece of lemon-peel or a cherry."

A widely syndicated 29 November 1897 piece titled "Favorite Drinks," which originated in New York, includes a paragraph referencing the fading fashion for garnishing Manhattans with a cherry.

The double hotel sells countless cocktails, of which the Manhattan and the Martini have the call, so far as popularity goes. For those who do not relish a cocktail of whiskey, there is a drink made up of equal parts of French vermouth and Plymouth gin, with a dash of orange bitters. This is preferred by many to the combination of Italian vermouth and Tom gin. Cocktails no longer contain the cherry at the bottom of the glass–that is, they are not so served unless there is a request to that effect. Cherries are going out, along with all other sweeteners in drinks. The present demand is for the dry, and it is considered that an olive is the best substitute for the sugary fruit, and all of the swell grill rooms now serve "cocktail olives"–pitted, by the way–with this universally favored drink.

The Buffalo Commercial, 29/Nov/1897, page 8, Buffalo, New York

The cherry's period as the garnish of choice in Manhattans may have been fleeting during the 1890s but it remerged during Prohibition in Europe's 'American' bars and has dominated since as this spirituous cocktail's sweet treat.

Manhattan Cocktail.
Fill mixing glass half-full fine ice, add two dashes gum-syrup, two dashes Peychaud or Angostura bitters, one half-jigger Italian vermouth, one-half jigger whiskey. Mix, strain into cocktail-glass. Add a piece of lemon-peel or a cherry.Manhattan Cocktail, Dry.
Prepare same as Manhattan Cocktail, leaving out syrup and cherry.Manhattan Cocktail, Extra Dry.
Mix same as Manhattan cocktail. Leave out syrup and cherry, and use French vermouth in place of Italian.

George J. Kappeler, Modern American Drinks, 1895
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