Looking at the recipe for the Brooklyn the first thing you’re going to notice is that it’s like a Manhattan, but…different. Once you go the next step and mix one up you’re going to find that that logic holds quite true. This drink really is like a Manhattan, yet different in really subtle, good ways. The flavor profile is extremely pleasant and really very unique. The amer and maraschino fill the spot where the bitters reside in a Manhattan. They add bitterness and a complexity of flavor which is essential. Though, if you’ve ever had a Manhattan with too much bitters, you definitely know they can be overpowering. In the case of the Brooklyn the bitters are replaced with other flavorful, if a bit less strong, ingredients. This allows you to better taste the other ingredients.
I started my week mixing with a high rye bourbon, namely Bulleit and though I tried other spirits I found myself coming back to this choice as my favorite. With a straight rye (Michter’s in my case) the drink is much spicier as you would expect. Though, while this is a good recipe I found myself preferring the Bulleit. Straight rye made this drink a little too sharp for my liking. I think that’s mostly because this recipe doesn’t have as much sweetness as my Manhattan recipe and, as such, doesn’t stand up to the rye’s boldness as well.
Mixing up the Brooklyn with a wheated bourbon (Eagle Rare in my case) results in a drink that is tremendously smooth and hugely pleasant. Though as I found with the straight rye, this was not my favorite of the options. Specifically, I really missed the light spiciness of the Bulleit. It’s all about the balance and for me that was found in the form of high rye bourbon.
So, now that we’ve discussed the base spirit let’s take a quick look at one of the other ingredients that really caught my eye. As I said in the intro this week I’ve had a bottle of Torani Amer in my collection since Tales of the Cocktail last year. I had no experience with amers of any kind, so I had no idea what to do with this ingredient. So, as a result of my ignorance, it languished unopened until this week. Having tasted it and used it in a recipe I feel can shed a bit of light on it now. Torani Amer falls in to the category of bitter herbal liqueur or, were it Italian, an Amaro. Others in this category that you might be more familiar with are Fernet Branca and Campari. However, I offer those only as notables of the category; Torani Amer tastes nothing like either.
Having tasted it and tried to nail down it’s flavor, I find it much easier to compare it to other products than to explain it on its own right. Torani Amer is very lightly sweet, nothing like you’d find in other liqueurs like creme de cassis, triple sec, or even it’s partner in crime in this drink maraschino. The aroma is complex and very hard for me to pin down. Though you do get strong herbal notes coming through. In the flavor I find it equally hard to discern specific flavors that really outshine the others. Rather, like other great herbal liqueurs, noteably Benedictine and Chartreuse, the flavor is harmonious. There is certainly a bitter note present as you’d expect but it’s not nearly as strong as you’d find in Campari. So, having danced around the actual flavor of this product I can say one thing with certainty. Torani Amer is quite tasty and really adds some wonderful complexity to the Brooklyn that would be sorely lacking without it.
As a final note on Torani Amer and more specifically why Dr. Cocktail suggests it over the classic Amer Picon, I’ll let his words from the notes on Picon Punch in Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails do the talking.
“The House of Picon has had its problems, at least with distribution in the States, but extending back further in France to when, inexplicably, they changed the proof (and thereby the flavor) of Amer Picon from about 35 percent to about 12 percent alcohol. Fortunately, while I feel so wrong saying so, there is a better, though more obscure product on the market. Its matches the Amer Picon proof from days of yore, and its flavor is more in keeping with the traditional Picon Punch. This product, Torani Amer, is made in the United States … Still, I hope Picon straightens out its formula and distribution. It might otherwise foretell the sad end to a historic product.”
Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh
There you have it. In summary, if you can find a bottle of Torani Amer, it’s definitely the choice for this cocktail and the Picon Punch which I’ll be featuring at a later date. It’s made in California so I’m sure you can easily source it on the west coast. If you can’t find it locally a quick Google search will point you to a few online sources.
As for the Brooklyn, mix it up some night when you’re wanting a Manhattan. I think you’ll really enjoy this variant. It’s quirky, but delightful in its own ways. Enjoy.