Joe Riggs is brand ambassador of Redemption Rye.
Joe Riggs is brand ambassador of Redemption Rye.

As someone who has put in his time on both sides of the bar, Joe Riggs, brand ambassador for Redemption Rye, believes it’s important for Kentuckians to know how to concoct the perfect Manhattan. Made with three simple ingredients — whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters — you can’t just throw everything into a glass and expect it to taste right. Constructing a decent Manhattan takes time, patience and proper knowledge of quality elements.

Riggs is holding an hour-long class on Tuesday, Nov. 24, at Doc Crow’s to teach you the key points and techniques of making the classic cocktail. He believes the Manhattan is a staple of American cocktail culture, and if you host parties with out-of-town guests, it’s a simple drink that’ll show off our prized bourbon.

Riggs says a bourbon or whiskey that has a high rye content — like his brand’s Redemption Rye — is perfect for a Manhattan, since its origins trace back to a high-rye cocktail. Perhaps even more important, he says, is the vermouth, which should be given the same respect as the whiskey.

“Vermouth is a fortified wine that varies in character based on the producer and pairs with certain whiskies better than others,” says Riggs. “Vermouth also oxidizes if not stored properly.”

A manhattan is traditionally served neat with a cherry garnish.
A Manhattan is traditionally served neat with a cherry garnish.

Riggs cringes if he sees a bar that doesn’t store its vermouth the right way, so much so that if a vermouth isn’t up to his standards, he’ll just go for an old fashioned instead — another classic bourbon drink that only uses bitters and sugar (and sometimes muddled fruit). At home, he treats his vermouth as if it was a fine wine. He buys half-pint bottles, he says, unless he’s expecting to host lots of people. He stores it in the refrigerator and pumps out the oxygen to preserve its freshness.

Tuesday’s class will be a hands-on learning experience. Riggs will not only teach you about the history of the cocktail, but he’ll show you proper technique, how to choose the right ingredients, how to take care of those ingredients, and how to experiment with different styles of the Manhattan. He hopes people will leave “knowing how to make the cocktail in their own style and be knowledgeable when serving guests at their home or bar.”

The “Sip ‘n’ Study” Manhattan cocktail class will be held from 5-6 p.m. at Doc Crow’s, 127 W. Main St. Cost is $20 per person and includes two drinks. For reservations, call 587-1626.

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Sara Havens
Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville, known around town as the Bar Belle (barbelleblog.com). She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."