After making pasta for dinner, I found myself with a mostly bare lemon that really needed to be used up. While I found a few good suggestions for pairing it with vermouth, none of them were speaking to me until I found the Man o' War cocktail. Named after a champion race horse, it takes the classic proportions of a Manhattan and accents them with balanced amounts of orange liqueur and lemon juice. Looked at another way, it's simply a Derby that uses lemon juice instead of lime. However, as written, it just looked like more alcohol than I want to be consuming right now, so I wondered if I could flip things around to make a less potent but still tasty drink.
1 oz sweet vermouth
1 oz dry vermouth
1 oz orange liqueur
0.5 oz rye whiskey
0.5 oz lemon juice
Combine all ingredients, shake with ice, then strain into a double old fashioned glass filled with ice. Garnish with maraschino cherries if desired.
The aromas are driven by the sweet vermouth, accented with dry vermouth, lemon, and a touch of orange. The sip opens bittersweetly with vermouth, lemon and orange dancing around each other, shifting towards herbal notes in the middle. The finish opens with rye spice and grain, then shifts into tart dry vermouth and lemon.
Wow, this is a great drink. I've had really good luck with the reverse perfect formula for stirred drinks, but I wasn't sure if it would work for a shaken drink. This does exactly what I wanted it to do - provide a lot of engaging complexity without straying too far in any one direction. For all the sweet ingredients the dry vermouth and lemon keep them in balance. The one change I'd make next time is to serve it up rather than on the rocks. While I think it makes for a refreshing warm weather drink on ice, it does compromise the complexity a bit.