How to make the perfect Manhattan at home

I love to drink good wine and in recent years (mainly since moving to the US), I have become quite partial to drinking cocktails.  Whenever I am out and about I tend to order either a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned.  This article focuses on how to make the perfect Manhattan at home.

A bit of background

One of the most popular classic cocktails in the world, The Manhattan originated in New York city, although the exact place and who invented it is still up for speculation.  However it is generally agreed that it was invented in the mid 1800's.  The traditional Manhattan is made up of Rye Whisky, Italian Red Vermouth and Angostura Bitters.  Most bars will serve it in a cocktail glass with a Maraschino Cherry.

How to mix it

The standard mix is two parts Rye to one part Vermouth and a dash of bitters.

How to make it

First off you will need a cocktail shaker, but I find a large heavy glass (the kind you can buy from Ikea) works just as well since for this cocktail we mix it, not shake it.  You then need a measure, a stirrer and a strainer.  All of these can be purchased very cheaply on Amazon and the links and pictures to recommended products are listed below.  And of course you need a cocktail glass.  Fill the cocktail glass with a couple of ice cubes and tap water and let it sit on the counter chilling for a while as you make your delicious Manhattan,

Fill your large glass or cocktail shaker with plenty of ice.  Then measure out two ounces of Rye Whisky and pour that into the glass over the ice.  Then measure out one ounce of Red Vermouth and pour that in.  Then add a dash of bitters.  Mix it all up with the stirrer for a minute or two to allow some of the ice to melt and then take the strainer, put it over the glass or shaker and strain the liquid into a cocktail glass.  I never bother with a cherry - waste of space.

The color of the cocktail should be dark brown and icy cold.  Sip gently and savor the complexity and smoothness of the drink.  It is delicious pre or post dinner.

Variations on the ingredients

  1. Use Bourbon or Scotch instead of Rye - just as delicious but a slightly different flavor.
  2. Try two ounces of liquor to two ounces of Vermouth - makes it sweeter.
  3. Try Orange bitters instead of standard Angostura bitters.
  4. Try the 'reverse cocktail' (becoming trendy as people watch their alcohol unit intake) - two parts Vermouth to one part whisky.

Paraphernalia for your cocktail making

Winco Stainless Steel 3-Piece Cocktail Shaker Set, 16-Ounce



OXO SteeL Double Jigger


American Metalcraft S209 4-Prong Stainless Steel Bar Strainer


Time to Learn More About Wine

Shake off those new year blues and learn something new about wine - get reading!  There are so many great books out there on wine and whilst many of you might be in the 'dry January' doldrums, it shouldn't stop you from picking up more knowledge about the wonderful world of wine. If you can't drink it right now, at least you can learn about it!

The Wine Bible, by Karen MacNeil is a true classic in the wine book world, a regular best seller on Amazon and one of the most informative and entertaining wine books out there.  It took over ten years to write and weighs in at over 1,000 pages!  Ebery major wine country (and some minor ones) are covered, along with every grape varietal, bodega, chateau and plenty of weird and wonderful facts about wine.

The Wine Bible is more than a coffee table tome.  It is a classic reference book that you can dip into time and time again.  The Kindle edition shown here is well worth the money and at time of writing is only $11.99.


The Top 100 Most Popular Wines of 2015

As 2015 draws to a close, what better way than to review the wines that customers ordered most of in 2015.  This is the ninth year that one of the US's largest online wine retailers has published their top 100 list and it is based on sales of wines from the first eleven months of the year.

There are plenty of great wines on the list this year, although some are already sold out.  You can check out the full list here: 100 – check out the list here.

Three of my favorites on the list are below:

Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Currently on offer at $11.99, this is a bargain basement thick red, packing a punch at 14.5% alcohol.

Check it out here

Faustino 1 Gran Reserva 2001

An absolute gem of a wine - classic Spanish and fifteen years old!  Time to drink it up! has it for under $30, which is below the national average price of $34 so snap it up whilst stocks last.

Check it out here

La Marca Prosecco NV

Get your sparkle on with this cheap and cheerful Prosecco.  Highly available in most major supermarkets around the country and available online at for $13.99.  What's not to like right?

Check it out here


Introducing Wine Price Checker

Generic wine

We get a lot of people asking about wine deals and where to find good value wine and every so often, someone has a particular wine and vintage that they are trying to get hold of.  The wine retailing market is extremely inefficient and prices per bottle can vary significantly, depending on which state you live on, how much margin the local retailer has, as well as other factors like sales tax and shipping.

So we decided to try out a new service that allows anyone to send us details of a wine they want to get hold of, and we will try to find them the best online price.  This is somewhat proof of concept, so don't expect anything fancy, but if you are looking to find a particular wine, why not give it a go. It's free to use and might just save you some money.

Go to the Wine Price Checker Service

Cheap Wine Fridges

No kitchen can be considered complete without a wine fridge and fortunately nowadays there are plenty of great options that won't take up too much space and won't make too much of a dent in your bank account.  One wine fridge that is great value for money and looks good too is the NewAir AW-281E 28 Bottle Thermoelectric Wine Cooler.

Wine fridge 1

It takes up to 28 bottles of wine (although you need to stack them carefully), and with the chrome surround and digital display, it really looks like a top end choice.  Amazon has been selling it for some time and usually has it discounted.  At time of writing it was a deal at $255.  There are plenty of four and five star Amazon reviews for this wine fridge.

Another good wine fridge option, and currently a bestseller on Amazon, is the Haier 12-Bottle Dual Zone Curved Door with Smoked Glass Wine Cellar.  At under $130 for the 12 bottle size, you'll be drinking your way merrily through the weekend.  It also comes in smaller 8 bottle sizes and larger 16 bottle sizes.

Wine fridge 2

Customers love it because it is ultra quiet, has a cool, smoky look to the door and still includes the digital displays that everyone loves on wine fridges. Check it out now on Amazon.

Here's an additional gift idea:


Three Great Looking Corkscrews to Impress your Guests

Summertime, and the living is easy.  Relaxed evenings with friends, drink in hand.  Life is good!  You're hosting a drinks party and you're planning some nice wines to serve your guests.  Now where is that old corkscrew? Oh yeah, stuck in the back of the cutlery drawer.  Ugh and it's gone rusty.  Not good!

Here are some corkscrews that do the business of uncorking your bottle of wine in style.  All are available on Amazon with free Prime two day shipping.

Go electric with the Oster

Oster Electric

The Oster Electric Wine Bottle Opener is one of Amazon's best selling bottle openers and you'll impress your guests with it's sleek design. It looks great in silver, just remember to make sure it's charged up ahead of time!  With over 3,200 positive reviews on Amazon and priced at around $20, what's not to like.  See it here on Amazon.

Go traditional with the Rosewood Waiters Three in One


A true classic, the Rosewood Waiters corkscrew is a corkscrew, foil cutter and bottle opener all in one!  It comes in a nice box and is a bargain at around $12 (this is currently on offer on Amazon), usual price is about $34.  It has a beautiful handle and sturdy fulcrum.  Great value for money.  See it here on Amazon.

Alessi Cool as Cats

Alessi corkscrew

How about this Alessi light blue corkscrew for style?  What a beauty!  It's not cheap, but it is a statement. Your guests will love it!  It's available in other colors and is a fun addition to any party.  See it here on Amazon.


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Wine Price and Bottle Weight Affects Perceived Wine Quality


Large wine bottle
A very interesting study published this week in the Journal of Marketing Research found that consumers rate wine as better quality when it costs more, despite it tasting exactly the same.  It's human psychology that the price tag can affect perceived value, and high end luxury brands have traded on that basic psychology for years (albeit with having to meet a minimum quality standard). Next time you have a drinks party, offer up two wines priced exactly the same with a similar taste profile but tell your guests that one costs four times as much and see which one they like more!

A couple of other interesting pieces of feedback from the research:

1. Wines that are sold in heavier bottles are perceived to be of greater value.  In this case, heavy=valuable.

2. Wine served in a thicker, larger glass is perceived to be of better quality - maybe a tip for restaurants to sell more cheap house wine if they serve it in larger, thicker glasses!

Non Alcoholic Wines Taste Test

In the spirit of trying out alternatives to that nightly glass of wine, I went in search of dealcoholised or non alcoholic wines at my local Fred Meyer.  There were two that I had heard of and researched online - Fre and Ariel.

Both stated on the label that they were under 0.5% alcohol, which was encouraging, and I couldn't wait to get home to open them up and be dazzled.  I tried the Fre wine first, since it was cheaper (about $6) and I knew less about it than Ariel.

Fre dealcoholised

Here's the description of Fre 2012 Red Blend on their website:

"Fre Red Blend offers a deep ruby color and ripe, black cherry scented aromas. Smooth and rich, it offers plenty of bright, grape, and cherry fruit with an intriguing smoky flavor. Fre Red Blend ends with a long, fruity, lingering finish. This alcohol removed wine is delightful on its own or paired with salmon, turkey, chicken and ham dishes, as well as pasta, pizza, and grilled meats."

Color wise they were spot on, but unfortunately that's where the similarities ended.  There was no long lingering finish, just a rather awkward bitter aftertaste, and the first mouthful was insipid, although there was a hint of cherry.  I cut my losses and went on to the bottle of Ariel, which was 50% more expensive at $9.  My hopes were high.

Ariel dealcoholised

Sadly those hopes were dashed when I poured my first (and last) glass of Ariel.  It was surprisingly similar to the Fre Red Blend, not pleasant to drink, watery, pruney, some cherry and a bitter finish.

Ariel's website describes this Cabernet Sauvignon wine as:

"Offering aromas of black currants, cherry, blueberries and chocolate, with soft tannins and a dry finish."

But it didn't cut it for me.  Turns out that alcohol in the wine is kind of an essential ingredient to making a wine that you would want to drink.  I'm sorry Fre and Ariel - I really wanted to like you, but you were just not anywhere close to being a good alternative.  I'll stick to coconut water on my wine nights off.

2009 DeLille Cellars Doyenne Aix

Aix delille

Superb wine drinking perfectly right now.  So glad I waited three years to try this.  It's a big wine - 14.9% alcohol, with a deep, dark, squid ink color.  The Syrah style blend is heavy but it works.  This wine packs a punch and is a big mouthful.  There is a ton of fruit - strawberries, blackcurrent and good tannins.  Overall a very solid structure that will hold up for another few years.

I paid around $30 for it a few years ago and it retails now around $40 so quite a good investment too.

Caymus Vineyards 40th Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon


You'll either love it or hate it.  It is a polarising wine, which is surprising, given that it costs around $70 a bottle.  For that price you'd think you'd be buying something great.

Well many do, but many don't.  Spend 5 minutes on the Cellar Tracker reviews of this wine and you'll find plenty of fans and plenty of haters.

"The ladies like it."
"A hot sweet mess."
"Easy drinking and pleasant on the taste."
"Another overblown fruit bomb that was again too sweet, too rich, too cloying."

Personally I'm with the last reviewer - I did not like it one bit.  One glass of it left be wanting to rinse my mouth out with cold water and go brush my teeth.  It is so sweet that you could mistake it for dessert wine, so dark in color you could mistake it for Welch's grape juice.  Just not good, with or without food.

It's just under 15% alcohol as well so a couple of glasses of this prune juice will send your alcohol unit count skyrocketing.

I've tried plenty of Cabernet Sauvignon big Napa wines and this was the most disappointing yet. What a total waste money.


OK maybe I was a little harsh.  I put this bottle of Caymus in the fridge overnight and tried it on day 2 and it had mellowed out.  A lot of the heat and sweetness I'd objected to had disappeared and it was much more drinkable.  I squeezed out a last glass on day 3 and it was even better.  I still wouldn't buy it again though.