Pre-prohibition cocktails and modern twists on classics

Rogue Manhattan

Rogue Manhattan

I finally got my hands on a bottled Rogue Manhattan and let me tell you, this is one helluva drink!

As some may know, I had the opportunity to visit Richmond, VA for a weekend recently. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect, being from the “big city” of DC, but was also drawn to the many innovators in the area, for both food and cocktails. By the end of the trip, my wife and I were both convinced of one thing: RVA is a great place to be and most certainly deserves a look for those who haven’t been.

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One benefit of having a website dedicated to classic/classically inspired cocktails is that a surprising majority of the folks I’ve met online and in person are also really into great drinks. Many have their own bars or sites (or both) and bring very unique takes on mixology. On my trip, I learned that without a doubt RVA has plenty of them!

I had the opportunity to meet some great and very hospitable folks, who worked at some of the best restaurants/bars in Richmond, such as Mattias Hagglund of Heritage and Derek Rowe of Rappahannock.

Let me tell you, Mattias can mix a drink. As a self-proclaimed cocktail snob, I left myself in his hands and was not disappointed. Their menu of drinks spans from two of my favorite classics, the Aviation and Improved Holland Gin Cocktail to some unique originals such as the Thai spice infused Amigo Amaro. If you are in the mood for something off menu, ask for a Fernet Old Fashioned, an amazing drink for sure and one I’ve grown quite fond of making myself.

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Derek Rowe of Rappahannock also makes a mean drink. Derek has great vision of his own and is a fan of Amari. He made me an awesome original with Rye, Aperol, Cardamaro and Fernet – need I say more? Not to mention that their Katie Nelson driven cocktail list (re: COLUMBIA ROOM) is excellent as well.

We also had a chance to have a bite and a drink at Amuse restaurant at the beautiful Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The menu varies with exhibit inspired cocktails, and there always seems to be a great view and good food.

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Speaking of the fine folks of RVA, I finally had a chance to meet up with one of the earliest/favorite fans of The Straight Up, John Maher. To those from outside the area, no this is not the singer (note  MaHer not MaYer), but a skilled chef who has worked and ran some top notch places. While I don’t know about his singing skills, this guy can cook like nobodies business and also loves/makes great cocktails.

His latest project/partnership, as many from RVA know, is The Rogue Gentlemen, a pre-prohibition style cocktail bar/restaurant that is opening later this year in the historic Jackson Ward district of RVA. Not only will they have awesome cocktails, but they will also be featuring an innovative food menu and a large patio for outdoor dining. If that wasn’t enough, in the mornings there will be breakfast pastries and coffee from Drew at D’lish Bakery to help you start your day.

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Besides having a blast, enjoying some great cocktails and tasting some vintage Fernet-Branca (from the 1950s), John also graciously gave me something I’ve been dreaming of trying since I first heard about The Rogue Gentlemen – a bottled Rogue Manhattan.

To those unaware, as part of their earlier announcements the guys shipped these prebottled beauties to various friends, media, etc, along with some cool The Rogue Gentlemen swag.

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I’ve been teasing you with pictures and rambling about Richmond for a while, but let’s cut to the chase:

What the hell is in a Rogue Manhattan?


Applewood Smoked Reservoir Distillery Bourbon

Carpano Antica

House made Barrel Aged Bitters

Tobacco/Vanilla Tincture

Flamed Orange Twist


Smoke laced citrus with notes of tobacco and a light undertone of whiskey on the nose. The Carpano Antica and applewood smoked Reservoir bourbon make for a wonderfully smooth base. Earthy overall with notes of clove, nutmeg, citrus, mix with leather, vanilla and tobacco accents. The Rogue Manhattan dries out a bit toward the end with the smoked bitter flavors coming through at the finish.

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Earthy, smokey and tobacco laced, how could you not love this? At it’s heart this shares the qualities of it’s inspiration: the Manhattan, i.e. this is a drink that will certainly appeal to a broad audience. It is incredibly smooth and has accents that you would be hard pressed to find in another Manhattan.

For us cocktail geeks/snobs who have mostly moved on to more obscure and bitter drinks, the Rogue Manhattan still fits the bill, with a nice earthy and smokey presence that makes the drink something more than your standard Manhattan. Couple that with the tobacco/vanilla tincture and some house made barrel aged bitters and you’ve got yourself one amazing drink. The finish is bitter enough to appeal to us Campari snobs, yet not so bitter as to turn off those that are less into bitter flavors.

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Overall, this is a cocktail that will simultaneously appeal to those really into classic and bitter flavors, as well as those completely new to cocktails, looking for something familiar, yet unique and all it’s own.

The Rogue Manhattan is something for everyone and I am looking forward to getting my hands on another one (or 5) of these when these guys open up shop.

For more on The Rogue Gentlemen be sure to check out their website, as well as follow them on twitter and tumblr.

The Rogue Gentlemen

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