A New York Sip of Mind: Mother of Exiles

Created by Nick Bennett, cocktail enthusiast and beverage director at Porchlight in New York, the Mother of Exiles is a take on the Manhattan — with even more New York flare. Discover the inspiration behind this new classic and how it’s made.

More about the Mother of Exiles and Nick Bennett

Nick learned at a young age that the most important part of making cocktails is enjoying the company of whom you are making them.

His interest in the craft of cocktails began to stir while watching Three Sheets, a travel show focused on international drinking customs and spirits. This, combined with practicing recipes like the Rusty Nail at the Corner Bar in Sag Harbor, taught Nick the value of fresh ingredients and that bartending is more than serving up shots and beer.

Nick uses lessons from childhood and all the way through his career to thoughtfully execute Porchlight’s dynamic cocktail menu. We were excited to catch up with this purveyor of creative cocktails and discover the secrets behind one of his most memorable sippers, the Mother of Exiles.

Tell us about the Mother of Exiles

The Mother of Exiles is a Manhattan cocktail variation created for Porchlight in our first years. This cocktail is named after a phrase describing the Statue of Liberty from an 1880s poem written to raise money for the pedestal on which the statue now stands. That poem was the sonnet “The New Colossus,” by Emma Lazarus, with the lines “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

The cocktail uses ingredients from Spain, Ireland, Italy, and America, roughly trying to recreate the Great American Melting Pot. There isn’t a coupe large enough to accurately hold the variety of characters and people that make up New York.

What makes this cocktail unique to your properties? What about unique to NYC?

The Manhattan is such an old cocktail that it really is more of a template than strict recipe at this point. At Porchlight, we even make use of a blend of ryes and a blend of vermouth when making our house Manhattan. For the Mother of Exiles, we have a spectacular American whiskey selection, some 40-plus ryes, bourbons, and miscellaneous whiskeys that we can use. So being able to make use of more than just what is in our well was an opportunity we could not pass up.

What is the key spirit, brand, or ingredient used that makes Mother of Exiles stand out?

That is a tough question to answer. We could say that the key spirit is the Jameson Irish Whiskey or the Rittenhouse Rye because they both share the title of “largest amount of volume in the cocktail” but it would not be the same cocktail without the qualities of the Meletti and sherry.

Can you describe the cocktail’s flavor profile and overall guest experience or presentation?

The snap of aromatic orange oils is the first thing that a guest notices with the Mother of Exiles. The first sip showcases the amaro’s burnt caramel and bitter herbal flavors alongside the softer Irish whiskey notes. The rye provides the backbone, and the sherry adds a savory touch that keeps the guest coming back for another sip. It comes out looking like your average Manhattan but tastes like so much more.

I can be found on all social media platforms at @theNickB and I regularly post instructional cocktail videos on YouTube. Also feel free to email me at [email protected].