If you're like us, you reserve your Manhattan drinking for colder nights which in SF would mean either mid-winter or mid-summer. Something about the woody, caramel-ness of bourbon makes it either a cold-weather or very-late-night choice for us. But this idea gets turned on its head when you start talking about the White Manhattan that bartender Neyah White's been serving at Nopa. It's made with white whiskey, which is sometimes called white dog (or moonshine) and it's the raw spirit that would become what we know of as whiskey or bourbon if it spent any time aging in a barrel. Wood chips, or barrel aging, are what give whiskeys their color and full flavor. But lately our nation's bartenders and cocktail nerds have been learning the charms un-aged, white whiskeys, and figuring out how to make good drinks with them. The Chron wrote about them back in February, and this week the NYT caught the buzz too.
As Neyah writes on Nopa's wine and spirits blog, "In a rough sense, these can be looked at as rustic vodkas. The properties are similar, except these white whiskeys are made in Alembic stills rather than industrial column stills." The result, since these raw spirits don't go through any of the major filtration and triple distillation of most vodkas, is a more pungent and flavorful base spirit that allows you to distinguish the differences between, say, what wheat, rye, and corn spirits each taste like on their own.