The Blackthorn is good. Nothing that I’m going to be adding to my top cocktails list though by any means. This drink, as Regan wisely points out, is, at its base, a twist on the Manhattan. Therein, you see, lay my main problem. The Manhattan was one of the first cocktails that I experimented with here on Cocktail Hacker and one of my first introductions to the loveliness of bourbon. I truly love a well mixed Manhattan and therefore had the bar set quite high going in. To use a bad sports metaphor, this drink placed but definitely didn’t win.
Savoy Recipe: I’ll start my discussion with the classic recipe. There are two main twists to note. First, and most obviously, the Savoy recipe is made with dry vermouth. Second, and quite related, the vermouth is a full half the recipe. Of the two recipes this was my least favorite. It wasn’t bad by any means, but not something I really enjoyed. The Irish whiskey (Jameson in my case), being a bit lighter than some other whiskies, was a tad overpowered by the vermouth. In an effort to correct this issue I tried dropping the vermouth to 1 oz and upping the whiskey to 2 oz. Not a good call. I ended up dumping that variant out.
Regan’s Recipe: Now we can really start making some Manhattan comparisons. The ratios are exactly the same, the bitters are the same, the only changes are the whiskey and the addition of a touch of absinthe. My thoughts on the whiskey are the same as with the Savoy recipe. The absinthe, however, adds a nice twist. First, a warning, go easy. Like bitters, you should think of the absinthe in this recipe as a cocktail spice. What I ended up doing was to add my three dashes of Angostura to the shaker tin first, eyeball the amount, then add the same amount of absinthe. This let me get the amounts as close to even as I could and if I messed up, which I did, I could dump some out and not waste the spirits.
Now for a bit about the drink itself. The ratios are good in this one, so I didn’t feel the need to play with that at all. The flavor is a bit like a muted Manhattan with an extra layer of anise absinthe flavor. In fact, I really like the flavor the absinthe brings a lot. Next time I mix up a Manhattan I think I’ll give that twist a try. As for the Blackthorn, I think I’ll be leaving this one to the recipe books.