Nashville's Jonathan Howard Crafts Country's Best Manhattan

Jonathan Howard Crowned Winner at the 2016 Manhattan Experience Finale Event in New York

Louisville, KY—Following a nationwide, months-long search, Woodford Reserve awarded Nashville’s Jonathan Howard the winner of the 2016 Manhattan Experience, honoring his take on the perfect Rye Manhattan and on an original cocktail created with Woodford Reserve Double Oaked. The national cocktail competition, conducted by and the United States Bartenders’ Guild (USBG), invited mixologists across the country to create two recipes, including a Woodford Reserve Manhattan cocktail that is representative of their expertise and creativity. Entries were received from 34 markets across the country.

Last night’s finale took place in New York City, where six finalists from select markets vied for the national title. Industry leaders Julie Reiner, Dave Wondrich, Jacques Bezuidenhout, and Master Distiller Chris Morris served as judges, with local consumers and bartenders also in attendance to sample each competing recipe.

“It is a great honor to have been named the winner of this year’s Manhattan Experience,” says Howard. “The competition was not just about developing a great tasting cocktail, but also providing the judges with an unmatched experience. I always enjoy creating cocktails with Woodford Reserve and to have been recognized by the brand is simply amazing.” For his Rye Manhattan, Howard went back to the classic cocktail’s origins, finding inspiration in a popular recipe enjoyed in the 1890s.

“For this year’s finale, and USBG decided to give the contest a new twist by introducing Woodford Reserve Rye into the competition,” says Master Distiller Chris Morris. “Jonathan’s recipe shined using Woodford Reserve bourbon in the prior rounds, but it truly captured the spirit of the Rye. We are excited to call his Manhattan the best in America.” 

After being handpicked by Master Distiller Chris Morris and the additional expert judges, the six finalists from Denver, Indianapolis, Kansas City (MO), Nashville, Pittsburgh and San Francisco traveled to New York for the final round. As the overall contest winner, Howard will receive a feature on, as well as a trip to San Francisco for a photo and video shoot that will live on the site.

Similar to earlier rounds of the competition, Howard and the other competing mixologists additionally created and presented an original cocktail made with Woodford Reserve Double Oaked. Called, “Gentleman’s Carry-On,” Howard focused on heightening the flavors already present in Double Oaked for his original cocktail. Both recipes are included below.

Classic Manhattan

1.5 parts Woodford Reserve Rye

1.5 parts Cocchi Torino Vermouth

2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters

2 dashes Absinthe

Grab a Lewis bag and crack several pieces of large format ice. In a mixing glass add Dashes of Absinthe followed by Bitters, Vermouth, and finally Woodford Reserve Rye. Add cracked ice and stir. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

Gentleman’s Carry-On

1.5 parts Woodford Reserve Double Oaked

.5 parts Rivulet Pecan Liqueur

.5 parts Licor 43

.5 parts Bianco Vermouth

3 dashes Woodford Reserve Spiced Cherry Bitters

1 n/a Islay Scotch Spritz

In a mixing glass, add bitters, followed by modifiers and finally Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon. Add ice and stir for medium dilution. Strain over a large piece of chipped block ice into a rocks glass. Finish with a spritz of Islay Scotch.

Suggested Articles

At this point in history, we have the opportunity to create lasting change. But, we need to press forward towards a safer, more equal world.

The latest data shows U.S. jobless claims at 1.5 million, a small decrease from the previous week.

We're better together.