You need this salted caramel Manhattan in your life. It’s sweet, a touch salty, and mostly, just pure decadence – you must make this Valentines’ cocktail. I’m calling it a Manhattan because the base spirit is whiskey, but it doesn’t have any vermouth or amaro in it, so it’s only a Manhattan in that it’s served up, in a fancy glass. But you’ll love it even if you’re not a big whiskey drinker.
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What is a Manhattan?
A traditional Manhattan, with its balance of whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters is a classic. It’s a cocktail whiskey lovers argue over and debate. It makes the whiskey shine through and through. If you’d like to know more about the classic Manhattan, check out my article here: How to Make a Manhattan. And if you’d like a look at some fun variations on it, and how to do your own, head here.
But this is not a serious drink, by any means. That doesn’t mean we should overlook it. For this weekend, for Valentine’s. I’m headed deep into decadence and indulgence. For this one, I found my inspiration in those chocolate-covered sea salt caramels from Trader Joe’s.
Flavors in a Salted Caramel Manhattan
In this caramel Manhattan, I wanted to play up the sweet caramel notes I often find in great bourbon, but I also wanted to tie that into a chocolate flavor. I chose Michter’s bourbon for this because I often get great notes of both in this.
But, since we’re adding a lot of extra liqueur and flavor with the bitters and liqueurs, use a less expensive daily drinker if you like. I won’t judge. Sometimes I think you need a little decadence in your life.
Back to the flavors. I’m using Stroopwafel caramel liqueur because it’s my favorite caramel liquor at the moment. But, you can use any non-creamy caramel liqueur you like for this. I’m not a fan of creamy liqueurs in bourbon drinks right now, and Salted Bailey’s would make this drink look muddy and sad. But the Stroopwafel liqueur tastes just like an actual Stroopwafel cookie: a little bit waffle, and a whole lotta caramel.
I added just a pinch of salt and it opened up the flavors nicely. There’s no real hint of salt in the liqueurs I was using, so it was a good choice.
I did add some chocolate liqueur. I had creme de cacao, so I used that, but Ballotin’s chocolate whiskey would be an incredible addition here. I just ran out last night. I toned down the sugar with both chocolate bitters and Old Forester Bohemain bitters (one of my favorite aromatic bitters.)
Let me reiterate – this is a FUN cocktail, not a serious one. It’s something sweet to drink after a really long week when you’ve met a goal, finished a huge deadline, or gotten a promotion at work. And it’s one even non-whiskey drinkers will enjoy.
How to Make a Salted Caramel Manhattan
Chill the glass beforehand, and garnish with a string of salted caramel or a drizzle of salted caramel syrup. See below.
Add the bourbon, Stroopwafel liqueur, chocolate liqueur (non-creamy), chocolate, and aromatic bitters to a mixing glass. Throw in a pinch of salt, fill with ice, and stir. Strain into your prepared coupe glass and sip. It’s especially tasty with a bite of the salted caramel in your mouth while you sip.
How to Make that Drippy Caramel Garnish
You can use caramel syrup drizzled on the inside of a coupe glass, but it dissolves quickly and doesn’t give you the fun lines you want for a picture. So, to make this, I took a sea salt caramel, pulled it apart into a long drippy string, and draped it inside and outside of the glass, letting it drip down onto the plate.
You would never do this in an establishment. It takes too long. But if you wanted a quick garnish, a twist of the caramel around a skewer would look beautiful and achieve the same aromatic and flavor effect.
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Salted Caramel Manhattan – Valentine’s Cocktail
- 1.5 oz bourbon I used BIB, 100 proof bourbon
- ½ oz Stroopwafel caramel liqueur or other non-creamy caramel liqueur
- ½ oz chocolate whiskey or liqueur
- 2 dashes chocolate bitters
- 2 dashes aromatic bitters
- Pinch of salt
- Garnish: sea salt caramel
- Chill the glass and add caramel garnish to it as described above in the article. Combine bourbon, caramel liqueur, chocolate liqueur, and bitters in a mixing glass and add ice. Stir until well-combined and strain the prepared glass.