When I picture my perfect Memorial Day -- meaning the Monday proper, after most of us have had our share of barbecue beers and whatnot -- what I'd really like to do on that day is sit on a porch, in a nice, big, comfy chair (rocking, or Adirondack -- I'm not picky) and spend the afternoon reading a good book and sipping on something wonderful.Read More
Time moves more slowly in Canada. I move more slowly with child. Put 'em together and what've you got? A 35-day month, but one that's worth the wait, for at the end of it lies the Month-Old Manhattan.
When I first mixed this drink in May, having gotten the recipe's inspiration from a restaurant's cocktail menu in St. Louis, I commended its use of old-school rye whiskey instead of bourbon as a base and marveled at the inclusion of curacao, which gave it a more playful (but still not juvenile) flavor. I'm paraphrasing myself here, but I described its unaged taste as appealingly scratchy-smooth-sweet on the palate.
Well; what a difference a five-week month makes. After spending that span of time sealed tightly in a Mason jar, the Month-Old Manhattan now boasts a shooting-out-of-the-gate upfrontness, like it couldn't wait to get down somebody's gullet, pronto. What may surprise you most, though, is which parts of its original profile are doing the tastebud-grabbing and the ass-kicking. This cocktail is, first and foremost, orange. Like, woah, orange. Like, oh!-range. And that's despite that fact that I'd subbed rail-quality triple sec for top-shelf curacao.
Second to that in oh!-ness is how round and smooth aging has made it. This is obviously not as surprising -- that's what aging is supposed to do, round out the corners, sand down the edges. It makes this Manhattan dangerously drinkable. In fact, if you've ever fancied shooting a Manhattan, this would be how to do it. But of course, good shots only come to those who wait.
The Month-Old Manhattan
(Adapted from the cocktail menu at Eclipse Restaurant in St. Louis)
2 ounces Old Overholt Rye Whiskey
3/4 ounce triple sec
3/4 ounce Stock sweet vermouth
1 dash Angostura Bitters
Orange peel, to garnish
Combine all liquid ingredients in a clean Mason jar, stir briskly and briefly with a bar spoon without ice, and tightly seal jar lid. Let stand for one month in a cool, dry place.
To serve, pour jar's contents into an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir vigorously with a bar spoon until drink is well chilled. Strain into chilled cocktail glass and garnish.
If the overly orangeness is scaring you off, my suggestion is to reduce the triple sec down to a half-ounce.
Damn you, St. Louis! Damn your exploding cocktail scene, three-and-a-half years after I move away. Damn you and your 150-libations-long cocktail menus and your Tales of the Cocktail award noms, your Ted Kilgores, your envy-inducing, membership-only cocktail boites that just happen to be housed in the most awesomest speakeasy-style restaurant space EVER.
And damn the recent cover story in Alive Magazine (a local lifestyle rag for chicks with meticulously maintained blonde highlights that I make fun of a lot in my head, but still) listing the top 20 cocktails in the city, which just so happened to be the current issue when I swung through town a few weeks ago, reeling as I customarily do from the timewarp-mindfuck that comes from revisiting my once-hometown, coupled with the fact that I'm still pregnant and can't shouldn't really no damnit can't drink anyway. You are killing me Saint Louis.
So yes, raging jealousy was my default reaction to this fine piece of journalism, followed closely by an intense desire to recreate at least one of these 20-best potations. I settled on the Month-Old Manhattan because, like many cocktails I've made of late, I already had all of the ingredients in the house. I haven't toyed with aging a cocktail in a while. The Month-Old Manhattan recipe came from Eclipse Restaurant, owned by my old bud Joe Edwards.
Joe Edwards is the king of the Loop, one of StL's happening-est nabes. Joe Edwards is a gentle, aging hippie and a shrewd, wickedly successful entrepreneur, whose hospitality and entertainment empire speaks to his endless love for all things Americana kitsch: Blueberry Hill (a resto/bar/college hangout/music venue where Chuck Berry still performs); Pin-Up Bowl; Flamingo Bowl; and the Moonrise Hotel, which houses Eclipse. I got to know Joe Edwards back when I was the restaurant critic at StL's alt-weekly. Also, Joe Edwards went to Duke. Go to hell, Carolina, go to hell!
So we mixed up the M.O.M. and found it's got a hell of a lot going for it besides its titular aging. This Manhattan is made with rye whiskey (as was the norm back in the day), sweet vermouth, bitters -- and, curiously, curacao. If I had Grand Marnier on hand I'd use that (Grand Marnier being a most upscale curacao) but I went downmarket and just used no-name triple sec.
Even unaged and no-name-triple-sec'd, I am already a big fan of this drink. The rye-curacao combo offers a rare scratchy-smooth-sweet trifecta on the palate.
The Month-Old Manhattan
(Adapted from Eclipse Restaurant, as published by Alive Magazine)
2 ounces Old Overholt Rye Whiskey
3/4 ounce triple sec
3/4 ounce Stock Sweet Vermouth
1 dash Angostura Bitters
Clementine segment (rind on), to garnish
To make your aging sample, combine all liquid ingredients in a clean Mason jar, stir briskly and briefly with a bar spoon (no ice necessary), and tightly seal jar lid. Let stand one month in a cool, dark place like a cupboard.
To drink straight away, stir all ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass briskly for about 20 seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange or clementine segment, if desired.
Like I said, I was happily surprised by the smoothness and well-calibrated sweetness of the M.O.M. even using crappy triple sec, so I can only imagine that going with GrandMa as your curacao would knock your socks off. In fact, you might even want to try scaling back to 1/2 ounce GrandMa if you do so -- I'm just guessing on that, though. Cointreau would, of course, be a fine, middle-of-the-road substitute between those two.
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Rye Perfect Manhattan
Rye used to be implied
When ordering Manhattans
Bourbon's bastardized that, but it's ok, bourbon; I love you, too.
I like to surprise people
By serving them a Manhattan
And then a rye perfect one.
Watch their faces as a new favorite drink is discovered!
Tasted a rye perfect for the first time
When an old crush told me it was his cocktail of choice
Luckily, wound up liking rye perfects more than the guy.
Let me back up, in case you don't know:
A Manhattan (i.e. regular) = bourbon, sweet vermouth, bitters (Angostura), cherry garnish
Rye perfect Manhattan = rye whiskey, equal parts sweet and dry vermouth, bitters, lemon peel garnish
Not long ago I was at the original P.J. Clarke's,
Ordered a rye perfect,
Got served one with a cherry.
Unacceptable! (At least it wasn't this guy who served it to me.)
Overholt's a perfectly-good-enough rye
Although I actually prefer Jim Beam Rye
Get over the mass-market stigma; for the $, Jim Beam Rye's the bomb.
Unless, that is, you happen upon Whistlepig
Like I did when Ryan gave us a bottle... 17 days ago?
We finished it last weekend.
You know how there are two types of people in this world?
People who like dogs and uptight pricks?
You can administer a similar test with a rye perfect Manhattan.
Was worried I wasn't writer enough
To do the rye perfect Manhattan justice.
And turns out I'm not, 'cuz here I am ripping off
To come up with the recipe for World's Greatest,
All I did was a) tinker with amount of Angostura,
b) Use up my Whistlepig. But again, Jim Beam's cool.
If ever there was a cocktail
To take the edge off of five o'clock,
It's this one.
What you'll learn when you taste-test
Manhattans vs. rye perfect Manhattans
Is that you never realized just how syrupy-sweet a Manhattan truly is
And that rye perfects toe the line between sweetness and... let's call it earthy/woodsy/sour graininess
Like a ladybug tiptoeing up a dewy blade of grass (huh?)
World's Greatest Rye Perfect Manhattan
2 ounces Whistlepig straight rye whiskey
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
3 dashes Angostura bitters
Lemon peel, for garnish
Combine all liquid ingredients in ice-filled mixing glass and stir briskly for about 15 to 20 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon peel after running the inside of the peel around the lip of the glass.
Some people have a gift. They can create glorious cocktails and have a knack for dressing up traditional drinks so that they taste entirely new.
The proprietor of this blog is one of these wondrously inventive people. [Oh, pshaw. -- Ed.]
I am not.
Put me in a kitchen with a dozen random food items, and I can make something tasty on the fly. But with drinks, I tend toward tried and true recipes with little variation. I like Manhattans and martinis and the most daring I get is experimenting with a new gin. So when Rose invited me to write a guest post, I knew that I'd be seeking outside help. And my outside help happens to be a fantastic, outdated (sorry, I mean "vintage") book that my boyfriend's grandfather used to own: The Esquire Handbook for Hosts, published in 1949.
The book is like an old-school Martha Stewart-esque guide aimed at swinging bachelors who want to entertain guests, and includes recipes for multi-course meals as well as advice on how to set a table and make everyone go home at the end of the night. But by far the largest section is for cocktail recipes -- this was the Golden Age of Boozehounds, after all.
I thought it would be a snap to find a recipe I could use for this post, but, well, it wasn't. An overwhelming number of recipes seem to be merely variations on standard drinks like the martini. For example, change the proportions of dry vermouth and gin to a 1:1 ratio, add a dash of orange bitters, and you have what the book calls a Racquet Club. Fine, but boring.
And frankly, some of the recipes are wholly unappealing. I don't want to find out what mixing equal parts gin, scotch, and absinthe tastes like, thanks. (It's called a "Bunny Hug," after a WWI-era dance.)
But I finally found a cocktail within my range as a lower-rank amateur: The Brainstorm.
It's a whiskey-based drink that resembles a Manhattan, but made with Benedictine instead of sweet vermouth. I realize that Benedictine might not be a liquor cabinet staple in the way that gin and whiskey are, but I've grown rather fond of it, despite my general dislike for sweet drinks. But it's hard not to like something originally produced by monks (says the Jewish girl -- maybe I like it because it's "exotic"?), and when used in small doses is lovely in after-dinner cocktails. (The Michelle Diet: Skip the cake and cookies and go straight for the booze.)
(Adapted from Esquire Handbook for Hosts, 1949)
1 ounce Old Overholt rye whiskey
1/2 ounce Boissiere dry vermouth
1/2 ounce Benedictine
A dash of orange bitters
Stir all ingredients well with ice. Serve in chilled cocktail glass.
I experimented with a couple different whiskeys and concluded that rye does work best for balancing out the syrupy honeyed flavor of the Benedictine. I've seen that some call the Old Overholt rather sweet, but I don't find it particularly so. Palates! So differing!
I also used slightly less than a half-ounce of the B, since a little of it really does go a long way. (Aha! Perhaps my fondness for this liqueur is its bang-for-my-buckitude!)
Finally, the original recipe calls for floating an orange peel on top of the drink, more for garnish than taste, but I substituted orange bitters and was pleased with the result.
And there it is. Not something I see myself putting into regular rotation come cocktail hour, but a nice change of pace from the same-old, same-old.