Over the past decade, the surge of craft distilleries has catapulted American whiskey to cult status. Demand for American craft spirits has grown to over $3.7 billion dollars and about 600,000 cases exported alone, according to the American Craft Spirits Association. The ASCA defines craft spirts as distilled spirits (including vodka, gin and others) produced in the US by licensed producers that have no more than 750,000 proof gallons removed by bond.
This month on May 18, we celebrate the 7th annual World Whiskey Day. Founded in 2012 by Blair Bowman, a whiskey industry consultant and author, and now owned by Edinburgh’s White Light Media, World Whisky Day champions all things whiskey, encouraging thousands of events around the globe to celebrate the compelling libation. On its website, Bowman says, “World Whisky Day is all about making whisky fun and enjoyable. It’s not about being exclusive or prescriptive. You can drink it however you enjoy it (ice, water, mixer—whatever works for you). We want to be all inclusive and that means any kind of whisky—whisky from anywhere in the world.”
Why the skyrocketing of American whiskey? Some credit TV shows like Mad Men, along with social media, industry trends and today’s mixology culture. Others liken it to the rise of craft beer brewing. According to the ACSA 2018 Annual Craft Spirits Data Project, the number of active craft distillers in the US grew by 15.5% over the past year to 1,835. California has the largest number of craft distillers at 156.
Today’s cocktail culture inspires the intrigue surrounding whiskey, prompting global conversations about master distillers, barrel aging, flavor profiles, types, price points and more. Whiskey is an ideal cocktail base spirit. Its spicy, round, robust yet balanced flavors are enhanced and mellowed by the addition of traditional herbal mixes such as vermouth and Amaro, while comfortably supporting some sweetness and bittering.
My favorite whiskey cocktail is the Manhattan, which plays off the spiciness of rye whiskey with the herbaceousness of sweet vermouth. Top it off with a couple dashes of citrus and cherry bitters, and a bourbon-soaked cherry for an ideal classic libation.
Mike’s Perfect Manhattan
1 ½ oz Bulleit 95 Rye whiskey
1 ½ oz Carpano Antica Vermouth
2 droppers Bitter Brothers Orange Bitters
1 dash Woodford Reserve spiced cherry bitters
2 Woodford Reserve Bourbon Cherries
(Fake maraschino cherries not allowed)
Shake all ingredients except cherries in an iced cocktail shaker.
Serve in a coupe glass and garnish with the cherries.