Cocktail Creators: Mountain Manhattan

The Mountain Manhattan is classic and unfussy—just like Colorado.

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Smiling blonde female bartender standing behind bar pours cocktail into stemmed glass.
Has West End Tavern's Mountain Manhattan been on the menu longer than some of its customers have been alive? Possibly. / Courtesy West End Tavern

Boulder’s West End Tavern excels in a lot of areas, but two things it’s particularly proud of specializing in: whiskey and Colorado. When the bar put the Mountain Manhattan on its menu nearly 10 years ago, the idea behind it was specific. “We created this drink with the Colorado Rocky Mountains in mind. Using a whiskey that ages at the highest altitude, this cocktail brings the mountains right to your lips,” says Ashley Millikin, West End’s general manager. 

She’s not exaggerating. The Tavern’s Mountain Manhattan uses specialty select bourbon from Breckenridge Distillery, which at 9,600 feet in elevation lays claim to the title “world’s highest distillery.” 

The staff at West End Tavern handpicked this blend of bourbon for the Mountain Manhattan and also offer it as part of their all-local Colorado Whiskey Flight.  “This is one of our all-time favorite drinks to feature to guests who are new to whiskey and new to Colorado,” Millikin continues. 

West End Tavern has long prided itself on maintaining strong focus on local sourcing, relying heavily on Colorado distilleries, breweries, and farms when possible. But aside from its origin, Millikin says this select bourbon from Breckenridge was a no-brainer for its taste alone. 

“We all hands down agreed on the same barrel,” Millikin says. 

To make it even more complex in its depth of flavor, West End Tavern then ages the bourbon in a small barrel with sweet vermouth and bitters for three weeks to let the ingredients get to know each other, so to speak, resulting in a mixture that is velvety smooth. The bourbon’s sweet notes of vanilla and cinnamon, with just a hint of spice and oakiness, balance out the vermouth and bitters. 

As a bonus, barrel-aging the mixture on site makes for quick and easy preparation and service. At $13 a glass with a 20 percent pour cost (which Millikin says meets the restaurant’s financial targets spot on), the Mountain Manhattan is a business asset, menu staple, and staff and guest favorite that isn’t going anywhere any time soon. 

Bottle of bitters, bourbon and vermouth lined up on a wooden bartop.
There are no extraneous ingredients in West End’s workhouse cocktail. / Courtesy West End Tavern

The Details

  • Restaurant: West End Tavern, 926 Pearl St., Boulder
  • Bartender: Sharon Landis
  • Cocktail: Mountain Manhattan
  • Brand: Breckenridge Distillery
  • Pour Cost: 20 percent
  • Price: $13

The Recipe

  • 2 ounces West End Tavern Select Breckenridge Bourbon
  • 3/4 ounce Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth
  • A few dashes Angostura bitters
  • Bordeaux cherry for garnish

The Method

Combine all ingredients in a mixing tin over ice and stir. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with a Bordeaux cherry. 

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