Today is National Pack Rat Day so we’re going to mix up the Rat Pack Manhattan. Sure, Pack Rat Day was intended to induce spring cleaning or to deal with hoarding. But we find this a lot less entertaining than the fact that your correspondent didn’t notice the switch in word order until the column was written. So we’re getting a head start on National Spoonerism Day on July 22.. A Rat Pack drink is in order.
After all, booze is for drinking, not for hoarding. Members of the Rat Pack were drinkers in a league of their own. They deserve the honor and the Rat Pack Manhattan was created specifically to honor them. It’s a simple variation on the Manhattan, but if you feel like something else there are several other appropriate choices outlined below.
The Rat Pack
The Rat Pack were a wild, mad bunch of entertainers who redefined cool in the 1950s and 60s. They were Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop – a volatile mixture of talent, charisma, and excess that was enough to give anyone a serious case of whiplash.
These guys knew how to party. They were the bad boys of Hollywood, and they lived life like there was no tomorrow. Booze flowed like water, cigarettes were lit and left to burn down to the filter, and the jokes were dirtier than a Vegas motel room. They were the kings of the stage, and they knew it. They owned Vegas. It was their town, and they ruled it with an iron fist. Women threw themselves at them, and men wanted to be them. They were living legends, and they knew how to live it up.
But despite their glittering image, the Rat Pack had a dark side. They were known for their association with the criminal underworld, and their behavior often crossed the line into debauchery and excess. Yet despite these flaws, they remained compelling, with a magnetic energy that drew people in.
But for all their excesses and vices, there was a certain kind of honesty to the Rat Pack. They were true to themselves, unapologetic about who they were and what they wanted. They didn’t play by anyone else’s rules, and they didn’t care what anyone thought of them.
The Rat Pack may be gone, but their legend lives on. They were a force of nature, a hurricane of cool that swept across the cultural landscape of their time. Love ’em or hate ’em, you couldn’t ignore them. They were the Rat Pack, and they were larger than life.
What were the favorite drinks of the Rat Pack?
Well, pretty much anything. But there were definitely some favorite Rat Pack drinks:
- Frank Sinatra was well known for his love of Jack Daniel’s, which we explored on his birthday with the Frank’s Way. He was also fond of Martinis but was very particular about how they were made. Gin and a splash of vermouth, served on the rocks with a lemon twist. So if you want a Rat Pack Martini you might consider yours with a twist and on the rocks instead of up.
- Dean Martin was fond of the Rusty Nail, which we mixed for Jack Kerouac’s birthday. For Martin’s birthday we mixed the Flame of Love, which was created in his honor at Chasen’s in Los Angeles.
- Sammy Davis Jr.’s favorite was the Margarita. But he’d hardly turn up his nose at bourbon, Scotch whisky or vodka.
- Peter Lawford liked Manhattans as well as Martinis. He was a classic Martini drinker, gin all the way.
- Joey Bishop pretty much went with a round of whatever was on the menu but was also known for a preference for vodka martinis. He would, at least, request them by their proper name, as a Kangaroo.
The Rat Pack Manhattan
There are clearly a lot of choices for a Rat Pack drink.
Luckily for us the late Wayne Collins set out to create a drink for this specific purpose. He devised the Rat Pack Manhattan while working at High Holborn in London. His original recipe used four different whiskeys and a Grand Marnier rinse to represent each of the members, with Grand Marnier thrown in as a fifth-member wildcard. But that complication is not really needed. The recipe we adopt simply calls for Bourbon, and when you get down to it the recipe is really a Perfect Manhattan with an orange element added from the rinse.
By the way, other Manhattan variations you might like are the Trainspotter cocktail and the Marconi cocktail.
Rat Pack Manhattan
- 1½ oz Bourbon
- ¾ oz Sweet Vermouth
- ¾ oz Dry vermouth
- ¼ oz Cointreau or Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur of your choosing
- Garnish: orange twist and cherry
- Add bourbon and both vermouths to your trusty mixing glass.
- Add orange liqueur to your pre-chilled cocktail glass, swirl to coat inside of glass and dispose of any remaining.
- Add ice to your mixing glass and stir to chill.
- Strain into cocktail glass, garnish with orange twist and cherry.
- Queue up some Sinatra on the streaming service of your choice.
This is a great Manhattan variation. Suggestion: I suggest using 1/2 teaspoon for the rinse. It’s more than enough to do the job.