Drinks | Recipes

The Harvest Manhattan

Somewhere in the past month’s crush of media chatter about New Year’s resolutions, I read a great point about how misleading the phrase “drop it like a bad habit” is.

We use it to refer to something we’re going to easily and swiftly abandon, but in life, it’s the so-called bad habits that prove tenacious and hard to break.

If we’re being honest and accurate, the phrase should be “drop it like a good intention”—but that doesn’t quite have the zing we’re looking for, does it?

manhattan cocktail
Photo: Casey Barber

Of course, pegging something as a “bad” habit is relative.

Most of my bad habits stem from laziness and familiarity, falling back on routine instead of stretching my boundaries.

Popcorn for dinner when I don’t feel like cooking any more; conversational writer’s tics like starting paragraphs with “and,” “of course,” or “but” (guilty! and I’m leaving it there).

Is it a bad habit to compulsively purchase every charcoal gray or navy sweater I find at J.Crew instead of introducing pattern into my wardrobe?

Should I force myself to eat something other than a lobster roll at Pearl Oyster Bar every once in a while?

manhattan cocktail
Photo: Casey Barber

Finding the sweet spot between indulging in comforting routine and relying on force of habit is tricky

And given my obsessive tendencies, I’m not always the most adept in being able to find that equilibrium.

That’s not saying it’s impossible to make tectonic shifts, though to continue this geological metaphor, sometimes striking the right balance takes a glacially long time.

I’m sitting here eating avocado toast and savory yogurt for breakfast, having kicked a lifetime dependence on cold cereal.

But there’s still a cup of coffee next to the plate—a habit I was thrilled to return to after giving it up for a few years.

manhattan cocktail
Photo: Casey Barber

When I feel like I’m getting sucked into repetition, sometimes shaking up my mindset is as simple as reaching for a new ingredient in the pantry instead of turning to the same old standbys.

And so we have a cocktail that pairs a few of my go-to ingredients (hello, cherries, nice to see you again; welcome back, whiskey) with some new friends.

It’s a riff on the classic Manhattan cocktail that switches out herbaceous sweetness for warming autumnal flavor and nutty undertones.

manhattan cocktail
Photo: Casey Barber

Whereas a traditional Manhattan cocktail pairs rye whiskey with sweet vermouth and bitters, this goes big on fruit and nut flavors.

It’s got both apple and walnut liqueurs, and a touch of cherry syrup.

If you can’t find Laird’s Applejack—which has been made in the great state of New Jersey since the 18th century—you can make the drink slightly sweeter with apple or pear brandy.

But I urge you not to skimp on the nocino: this Italian walnut liqueur is the equivalent of the Dude’s rug here, really tying the cocktail together.

(Obsessively quoting favorite movies? Another habit that I can’t/won’t break.)

manhattan cocktail

Plus, you can always splash some into a hot toddy or mulled cider.

My usual custom is to make a Boulevardier or an Old-Fashioned to kick off happy hour, but I’m think this Harvest Manhattan cocktail could become a habit too.

manhattan cocktail

Harvest Manhattan Cocktail

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

The Harvest Manhattan cocktail is a riff on the classic with warming notes of apple, cherry, and walnut liqueurs.


Cherry Syrup

  • 1/4 cup tart cherry juice
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar


  • 6 tablespoons (3 fluid ounces) applejack or apple brandy
  • 1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) rye whiskey
  • 2 tablespoons (1 fluid ounce) cherry syrup
  • 1 tablespoon (1/2 fluid ounce) nocino walnut liqueur
  • Angostura bitters or cherry bitters
  • Luxardo maraschino cherries for garnish


Make the cherry syrup:

  1. Bring cherry juice and brown sugar to a simmer in a small saucepan, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

Make the cocktail:

  1. Fill a cocktail shaker or cocktail pitcher with ice.
  2. Add the applejack, rye, cherry syrup, nocino, and 6-7 shakes of bitters to the shaker or pitcher.
  3. Stir well, then strain into 2 4-ounce coupes or small cocktail glasses.
  4. Garnish with maraschino cherries.

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One Comment

  1. Oh, yes … Habits are indeed hard to break and oh so comforting at times. I’d like to take comfort in one of these lovely Manhattans right now. I feel a cocktail is in order later today.

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