The Deshler is a pre-Prohibition cocktail that first appeared in print in Hugo R. Ensllin's 1917 Recipes for Mixed Drinks. According to Cointreau, it was the first cocktail created with the orange liqueur in New York City.
So it's fitting that this slight twist on the original version of the recipe is from New York City bartender and self-proclaimed “Tiki pirate” Brian Miller, the founder of the once celebrated but now-closed Tiki bar the Polynesian. However, this spirit-forward, rye whiskey-based drink would never be mistaken for a Tiki cocktail even if it were served in a fish-shaped mug. A stirred cocktail that draws from whiskey classics like the Manhattan and Sazerac, the Deshler is a sophisticated drink that is sure to win over those who love a darker, more spirit-forward cocktail.
Like a Manhattan, the Deshler adds a bit of fortified wine to its rye whiskey. However, rather than a standard sweet vermouth, it specifically calls for Dubonnet rouge. This aromatic aperitif is well over a century old, dating back to 19th-century France. Like sweet vermouth, it’s fortified and flavored with botanicals, but includes quinine, the same bitter herb that gives tonic water its telltale flavor. There’s no real substitution for Dubonnet rouge in the Deshler, but if pressed you could use Lillet Rouge or Byrrh, which are somewhat similar aperitifs.
A splash of Cointreau adds a touch more sweetness and some citrusy depth, while two dashes of Peychaud’s bitters add even more botanicals as well as a deeper crimson hue.
In the recipe's original formulation, the rye whiskey and Dubonnet rouge were called for in equal amounts, plus two dashes of Cointreau and two of Peychaud's. Here, the rye and Dubonnet are in the two-to-one proportions alike those of a standard Manhattan. The two dashes of Peychaud's remain, while the Cointreau is cranked up slightly for a more pronounced fruity flavor.
The result is strong and elegant, and may overtake the Manhattan as your favorite late-night cocktail.
- 2 ounces rye whiskey
- 1 ounce Dubonnet rouge
- 1/4 ounce Cointreau
- 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
- Garnish: orange twist
Add rye whiskey, Dubonnet rouge, Cointreau and Peychaud’s bitters to a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled.
Strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with an orange twist.