I have a good friend named Joel. Joel has a father named Jake. (Joel also has a mother, a sister, and two brothers whose names, I swear, all begin with “J”*. But that’s another story for another day.) Jake lives Upstate. I’ve never actually met Jake, though meeting him, at this point, is a mere technicality. And that’s because Jake gave me — via Joel — a gift whose worth cannot be underestimated: Jake gave me the Manhattan.
Jake, from what I understand, is a man who knows from cocktails. For years, he and his wife ran a small liquor store, now closed, on a forgotten block in downtown Syracuse; for years, under the perma-gray skies and five-foot snow drifts of central New York, he manned the register, stocked the shelves, and dropped countless tall boys and bottles of Popov into countless brown paper bags; and for years, he ended each long day with a Manhattan. (“On the rocks,” says Joel. “Canadian Club. Occasionally Black Velvet. Every night.”) Now, here’s the messed up part: when Joel told me this one day after work, as we sat and bitched about our jobs at a bar across the street from our office — in Manhattan, no less! – I didn’t know what a Manhattan was. I had never tasted one, didn’t even know what was in it. Wasn’t it some kind of variation on the martini? Was there brandy in it? Didn’t it involve the ever-mysterious Drambuie? When I fessed up about my ignorance, Joel thought I was kidding.
He ordered me a Manhattan. (more…)