As the return of brown-liquor season approaches, a reminder: it’s the vermouth that makes the Manhattan, not the whiskey. You’ll have your favorite premium brand, of course, but can do worse than Carpano Antica or Punt e Mes. Both provide the depth of flavor that will transform a so-so Manhattan into a revelation: just the sort of drink you’ll be eager to mix yourself following a long day at the office, or perhaps after dinner, for dessert. Or both. A budget-minded libationst might object that fancy vermouth can be on the pricey side. Here in New Canaan, for instance, a liter of Carpano will set you back $39. I find I can rationalize that added cost—I find I can do a lot of rationalizing when it comes to liquor expense—by mentally offsetting some of it by going with a low-priced bourbon. Why not? If your favorite upmarket bourbon is so delectable, what are you doing adding anything to it other than a drop or two of water in the first place? Besides, it wasn’t all that long ago that the notion of “upmarket bourbon” was something of an oxymoron. In any event, Early Times can be a very good lower-shelf substitute. Seriously.