Recipe Corner: New Armenian Manhattan Cocktail


Recipe and photo courtesy of Robyn and Doug Kalajian at

Family gatherings are important, especially when loved ones live far apart.  This past Christmas was significant for Robyn Kalajian’s family because it was the first time her daughter, Mandy, and son-in-law, Ron visited Robyn and husband Doug in their new home in South Carolina – together. Before they arrived, Robyn asked what family dishes they wanted her to prepare. Their list was long, and included recipes Mandy and Ron love, but do not have time to prepare.  Robyn’s menu included Armenian lule kebab, pilaf, lahmajoun, yalanchi, sarma gurgood, to zucchini caviar, basturma, string cheese, boregs and kadaif, to list a few. Once cooking began, Robyn turned her efforts into a party so friends and neighbors could meet Mandy and Ron. Robyn reports an Armenian priest was also in attendance from a nearby church. The Kalajian Christmas and Armenian-themed party was born. Before the party, Doug asked Ron to create a Manhattan cocktail, “but Armenian style with a twist.”*

“Sitting atop Doug’s large, swing-open bar in the living room was a bottle of Ararat Brandy,” Ron reports. “The label read, ‘The legendary Armenian brandy since 1887.’  I remembered that New York barkeeps often use brandy as the secondary ingredient in a Manhattan cocktail, in lieu of sweet vermouth, so the ‘Armenian style with a twist’ problem was solved.”  Ron says his new cocktail was made in large batches for the party guests, and went down “very smoothly.”


  • 1 cup (8 oz.) bourbon (Suggestion: Russell’s Reserve 10-Year Old)
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz.) brandy (Ararat 3-Year-Old Armenian Brandy or use older vintage)
  • 8 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 12 bourbon cherries (such as Stonewall Bourbon Bada Bing Cherries)
  • 4 teaspoons cherry juice (use juice from jar of cherries)
  • 12 cubes of ice or 4 single-block cubes (Use regular cubes or make it fancy with a single-block cube)

Serves 4.


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Start by adding one cup of ice to a cocktail shaker.  Slowly add the bourbon, brandy, cherry juice, and dashes of bitters.  Prepare 4 cocktail glasses (rocks glasses work nicely) by adding 3 regular cubes (or 1 single-block cube).  Gently shake mixture for 15 to 30 seconds.  Pour about 3 ounces (or 2 fingers) of the mixture into each glass.  Garnish each glass by adding 3 bourbon cherries.

*The Manhattan is a classic cocktail believed to date to the late 1800s that is customarily made with whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. While rye is the traditional whiskey of choice, other commonly used whiskies include Canadian whiskey, bourbon, blended whiskey, and Tennessee whiskey. Ararat is a brand of Armenian brandy produced by the Yerevan Brandy Company since 1887. The current owner is French Pernod Ricard. In 1999, the government of independent Armenia sold the factory to the French Pernod Ricard company for distilled beverages. The variety of the company’s cognac products are labeled and publicized as ArArAt. Made from Armenian white grapes and spring water, according to a traditional method, the brand’s “ordinary brandies” are aged between 3 and 6 years. “Aged brandies” are between 10 and 30 years old.

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Topics: drinks
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