Leave it to a tequila sommelier to find a worthy rival to this classic cocktail.
We probably don’t need to tell you that a classic Manhattan is an ideal drink to close out your night. Rich and robust, the simple union of brawny rye (or bourbon) and sweet vermouth, it evens out the intensity of whiskey with the smooth, complex vermouth—stiff but, in its way, still soothing.
But Amanda Swanson, the tequila sommelier of Añejo Tribeca in Manhattan, has found an alternative: the tequila Manhattan.
"Before falling in love with agave spirits, I was a bourbon girl, and loved ending my night with a classic Manhattan,” she says. “To combine the best of both worlds, I love a good añejo tequila Manhattan variation.”
Añejo, which translates to “aged,” denotes a tequila that spends between one and three years in oak barrels. That aging process lends it characteristics we associate with brown spirits, like bourbon or brandy—notes of caramel and toffee, added weight and body. As such, añejo tequilas often made for fascinating variations on whiskey classics.
“What better way to do a nightcap than to use my favorite after-dinner tequila?” said Swanson. Her preferred spirit: Riazul Añejo, which spends two years in barrels formerly used to age Cognac. “The time spent in the barrel brings a rich sweetness to the tequila.”
It’s nicely balanced by Carpano Antica Formula, many a bartender’s sweet vermouth of choice, as well as mole bitters swapped in for the usual Angostura, which picks up on the theme of the Mexican tequila. The result has the weight and heft of a Manhattan, but with the unmistakable character of agave, and mole bitters adding a subtle complementary note of chocolate, cinnamon, and spice.
Warm, complex, with a nuanced sweetness, it’s a drink to nurse and savor, as every great nightcap should be.
“It's a great cocktail to have with dessert without being cloyingly sweet,” according to Swanson— “Or to just sip on to relax before turning in for the night."
2 ounces Riazul Añejo tequila
1 ounces Carpano Antica Formula sweet vermouth
2 dashes Mole Bitters
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, and stir until thoroughly chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe or over a large whiskey cube. Garnish with a Luxardo cherry and/or an orange twist.