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.
This was probably five years ago now, and Jake — my Upstate brother, my dark-spirit drinking, long-distance, medicine-loving mentor, my fellow Manhattan-ite — I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for introducing me — and Jenny, for that matter; don’t let her tell you otherwise — to the magical cold-weather concoction that is bourbon, sweet vermouth, angostura bitters, and a maraschino cherry. Thank you for showing us that there is life beyond the gin and tonic, the glass of cabernet, the Silver Bullet. Jake (can I call you Jake?), you should know that when Joel and I get together now, every month or so, we order two Manhattans on the rocks and toast you every time. In fact, when making plans to meet, I don’t ask Joel if he feels like “getting a drink tonight.” I email him and say, “Jake?” Or I ask him if he feels like “Jaking it the f@#k up tonight.” Hardly a week goes by when I don’t get an email from Joel, usually around 7 pm, just after he’s gotten home, with a one word message: Jake. Hardly a Friday goes by when I don’t text Joel a picture of a Manhattan, on the rocks, sitting on our kitchen counter: no further message required. — Andy
*Not to mention an uncle whose given name was Yogi.
I don’t measure this out too carefully. Some recipes will tell you to do 2 parts bourbon (or rye, which I like, or Canadian Whisky, which kind of smells like lighter fluid to me) to one part sweet vermouth, but I find that’s a little sweet. So I usually do something closer to 3:1. Up to you. But one word of warning: One Manhattan is fantastic. Two is never a good idea.
Fill a short glass 2/3 full with ice. Add two dashes angostura bitters, sweet vermouth, and whatever bourbon you like. (I like Buffalo Trace and Maker’s.) Add maraschino cherry. (I usually crush it against the side of glass with a spoon, to release some of that red dye number two!) Stir. Jake!