Man O’ War.
While it might be quite a stretch to call the Man O’ War a classic cocktail, it’s such an interesting drink I think it’s worth a look. Details on its creation are thin on the ground and all we really know is that it emerged in the mid 20th century and is named after a race horse from a generation earlier. I’ve heard it said recently that if you are struggling to find a name for a drink you’ve created you should have a look at the names of some racehorses in the paper. Clearly that has being going on for longer than I thought. Now I don’t know much about racehorses but some say Man O’ War was the greatest one ever – I thought it was Red Rum but perhaps I’m biased. Whatevers. What is really interesting to me is that this drink is an example of that rare sour/aromatic hybrid cocktail that I had (apparently incorrectly) thought to be quite modern. The MoW takes a bourbon base, a hefty glug of orange liqueur as the sweet and balances that out with equal parts of lemon juice and sweet vermouth. As we know (right?) sweet vermouth is not sweet but simply sweeter than dry vermouth – and I especially like Punt e Mes which has some extra bittering agents included. Therefore while the Man O’ War sounds like a sweet drink it’s really quite nicely balanced. It’s also got quite a kick if you’re using one of the 40% orange liqueurs such as Cointreau or Pierre Ferrand. The result is a rather pleasing little drink that tastes neither heavily of bourbon or orange but, at least to me, of grapefruit juice. What’s not to like? Well actually I’m not keen on it’s standard lemon peel and cherry garnish – which seems a little over-used. I switched that out for a long strip of white grapefruit peel draped through the drink to reflect and enhance its grapefruity liveliness. While I’m not one to double strain every drink served on the stem I think this is one that definitely benefits from such treatment.
There’s not much more to say here given the unknown history of this drink except to suggest you whip yourself up a Man O’ War while the going’s good.
Man O’ War.
2oz / 60ml bourbon of choice.*
1oz / 30ml orange liqueur.**
0.5oz / 15ml fresh lemon juice.
0.5oz / 15ml Punt e Mes or another Italian/sweet vermouth (I’d add a dash of Angostura if I didn’t have any PeM).
Shake with ice and double strain into a (large-ish) chilled Champagne coupé.
Garnish with lemon and a cherry or a long strip of grapefruit peel.
Toast Man O’ War 1917 – 1947.
* I wouldn’t go for anything too strong as this is already a pretty strong drink.
** I suggest Pierre Ferrand dry curaçao/triple sec but Cointreau or others will suffice.