Wednesday, April 3, 2013

I'LL TAKE MANHATTAN(S)

Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby down their Manhattans in the scene from Cole Porter's "High Society."
I'LL TAKE MANHATTAN(S)
by Anita Sarko


The Manhattan is the new Martini. Simple as that.

After decades of being the GRANDE DAME of cocktails, the Martini whored itself out to the point where it’s just ... a DAME. Once the poster drink for irreproachable simplicity, it became so tarted up that the mention of it conjures up visions of sloppy chicks in stripper heels tumbling through the streets of the Meat Market and Murray Hill, rather than sleek denizens, cool and upright, mingling in rarefied penthouses and boîtes.

The beauty of the Martini was its austerity: Gin or Vodka, Vermouth and a tiny olive or onion in a bullet bra shaped glass. Whether it was shaken or stirred didn’t really concern anyone except James Bond. It was all about balancing few FINE ingredients JUST RIGHT; that was the art of mixing one. Even when Dirty (through the inclusion of olives), the glory of the Martini was in its clean taste. So fanatical are the lovers of the true Martini, I know of one MAJOR movie star who insists that anyone having an event he attends contact ONE person in order to get the recipe exactly to his taste.

But, all the classicism of the Martini disappeared when bartenders became “Mixologists.” Suddenly the war was on to get the most attention for the most inspired meditation on this mainstay. Instead of it being about proportions and a limited palette of quality parts, it became about what was squeezed, muddled, infused, with the results looking and tasting like offerings at a Dylan’s Candy Bar Happy Hour. Lemon Drop, anyone? Chocolatini?

What’s passed for progress is just lipstick on a pig.

Well, kids, there’s a new old drink obsession in town and it hasn’t come a minute too soon. Ask for a Martini at a bar and the ... whatever he/she calls him/her self ... stirs or shakes it, slaps it down and moves on. Order a Manhattan and just watch the BARTENDER develop a warm smile, extremely friendly demeanor, sparkly eyes and get mighty chatty. It’s all very “Welcome to the club!”

Like the Martini, the Manhattan is made up of very few components: Whiskey, Vermouth, Bitters and a cherry. Variations abound, depending on the chosen whiskey (the traditional Rye, or perhaps a Scotch, or southern style with Bourbon), Vermouth (dry or sweet), Bitters (the traditional is Angostura, but I’ve also had a great version using Lavender) and cherry (the traditional Maraschino or the currently popular pickled cherry).

There are many who add a slick of sweet, via a liqueur such as Maraschino (replacing the cherry) or the currently popular St. Germain (Elderflower). Aside from that, the only choices remaining are whether you want it on the rocks or shaken or stirred with ice or just poured into a chilled glass.

The traditional glass is the Martini (bullet or the smaller rounder breast-shaped), which I have little use for; what is the point of a glass from which most of your drink flies out of when you are bumped or walking in stilettos? I prefer a nice short straight edged glass that can hold up to the conditions in which you find yourself when imbibing one.

The only sign I’ve seen of going the Manhattan going off-book is the delectable ice cream sandwich offered by the Coolhaus trucks. I was happily led astray by the idea of Maker’s Mark homemade (in Cali) ice cream (in various rotating versions, including the Manhattan) sandwiched by two soft homemade red velvet cookies. I know ... I know ... bring on the stripper shoes!
Coolhaus Ice Cream Truck's Menu and assembly directions. Check out their web site, eatcoolhaus.com, for more details on their flavors and where and when to find their trucks, store fronts and products.
The Final Presentation. (AKA "What diet?")
Check out these recipes for delicious Manhattans. I tried to cover a spectrum, from Bemelmans Bar (founded in 1930, I consider this gorgeous place to be Ground Zero for classic cocktails ... even though the original Manhattan was allegedly created by a Downtown bartender), to the infamous Downtown tavern Old Town (founded in 1892), to a current Chelsea neighborhood gem Tipsy Parson to the always trendy Tribeca Grand to 2 Private Chefs to the stars. Oh yeah ... and the ice cream truck!

Bottoms up and Cheers!

JOHN NUGENT — OLD TOWN BAR
John is a native New Yorker, currently exiled to NJ because of the rents. He's happily married with 2 daughters. He has been tending bar at Old Town for 22 years. "I come from a long line of Manhattan drinkers though I've never had a Manhattan myself; I prefer gin. My fathers sisters, their daughters, one of my sisters, my wife, her sister are all fond of the Manhattan, but none more famously then my late great Aunt Bonnie: A class dame if there ever was one ... throaty laugh, red lipstick and always, 'Just one dear.' Until she was 80, there was never just one."

Rye/ Rye blend/Bourbon
Sweet Vermouth
Dash (or two) Angostura bitters
Maraschino cherry

CHILLING THE GLASS & INGREDIENTS AT OLD TOWN BAR.
"I ask customers whether they prefer rye or bourbon. I'd have to say, most people today like bourbon." Fill a martini glass with ice, then water, to get it chilled. Fill a shaker with ice. Add sweet vermouth and shake 3-4 times. Add the whiskey and bitters. "Get it really, really cold by either stirring or shaking (I don't think it matters but I prefer to stir), then strain into the chilled glass." Garnish.

NOTE: Order a burger. This place is renown for having one of the best in NYC.
OLD TOWN BAR'S JOHN NUGENT STIRRING, STRAINING & POURING THE FINAL PRESENTATION.
LUIS SERRANO — BEMELMANS BAR
A native of Spain, Luis has been a bartender since 1989.  He has been at Bemelmans for 20 years.

4 Oz. Maker's Mark*
¼ Oz.  Cinzano sweet vermouth
¼ Oz.  Cinzano dry vermouth
Dash Angostura bitters
Lemon peel**


* He first served me Michter's Straight Rye
** He first served me one with a maraschino cherry

Combine all ingredients with ice in a 16 oz. mixing glass. Stir very well. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish.

NOTE: DO NOT be put off by the price tag (around $21). You are actually served TWO cocktails: One is in the glass and the other is in a carafe set in ice.
BEMELMANS BAR'S LUIS SERRANO STIRRING THE INGREDIENTS. STRAINING AND POURING.
THE MARASCHINO CHERRY ALTERNATIVE.
THE FINAL PRESENTATION OF DRINK, CARAFE & SALTY SNACKS.
MARTIN & FITCH
Maura Martin and Phoebe Fitch, who each have over 20 years experience, are Martin + Fitch Events, a high-caliber catering and event planning service. Both began cooking while VERY young, attended the New York Restaurant School after college, and then took off for Europe. Phoebe worked as a private chef, while Maura continued her studies at La Varenne Cooking School. (And this was all before they actually met!)

MARTIN & FITCH'S PHOEBE FITCH WITH THE FINISHED COCKTAILS.
"Having both started our own catering companies at different points, we realized how advantageous combining our talents would prove to be," Says Phoebe. For the last decade they have been private chefs and event planners for some of the most recognizable names in film, music, fashion and finance.

In the last three years. Martin + Fitch Events has tripled in size and experience, catering to (literally) everything from large formal dinners for 1000 to intimate private gatherings for 20.
 
3 parts Bulleit Bourbon
1 part Cherry Orange Vermouth (recipe follows)*
1 dash Fee Brothers Cherry Bitters
Macerated cherry from Vermouth jar
Orange twist


Shake with ice, strain into Martini glass and garnish. 
 
* CHERRY ORANGE VERMOUTH
1 cup Sweet Vermouth
½ cup dried cherries
1 - 2 inch strips of orange zest (removed with vegetable peeler)


Store together in a glass jar for at least 8 hours. Can be kept in fridge for 2 weeks.
GLASSES ...
BITTERS, WHISKEY & CHERRIES ...
PHOEBE MIXING & MEASURING ...
AND POURING.
MATTHEW WADE HAMPTON — TIPSY PARSON
Matthew Wade Hampton is a graduate of Washington and Lee University, VA. His "current life goal" is to earn a M.S. in Hospitality Industry Studies at NYU. "When drinking mixed cocktails I believe everyone would be better off having a weakness for Manhattans; they conceal all that is horrible in the world and reveal only what is good and true."

2 Oz. Rye/Bourbon (Preferences: Blanton's Original Single Barrel, Four Roses Small Batch, or Woodford Reserve's Tipsy Parson Collection.)   
½ oz. Dolin's Dry Vermouth ("it is light and bittersweet")
½ oz Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth ("for its citrus nose")
Dash Bitter Tears Bitters
Lemon peel/Tipsy Parson house-made brandied cherries ("Never use maraschino: The horrors!")

CHILLED GLASS + BOURBON.
"Rye whiskies were traditionally used in making Manhattans until Prohibition times, when bourbon became more readily available.  Today, I find, Northerners typically prefer a rye whisky when ordering a Manhattan, but the Southern strings in me continually find good bourbon the only appropriate remedy." Start with a chilled glass. Pour whiskey into a pint glass.  Add vermouths. Top with bitters. "Add ice and stir, DO NOT SHAKE, for approximately 30 seconds (a good Manhattan is served chilled, not watered down). Lightly rub a lemon peel on the outside and rim of the chilled glass to increase the citrus nose before twisting it into the cocktail." Served up or on the rocks. "When served on the rocks, one 2x2 inch ice cube is the only way to go."

NOTE: If you like southern food, definitely have some starters or side dishes with your cocktails. Their food is refined, but it's authentic. I'm addicted to the mac & cheese!
SWEET & DRY VERMOUTHS. DASHING THE BITTERS.
THE FINAL PRESENTATION.
MATTHEW GREEN — TRIBECA GRAND MANHATTAN
Matthew's oldest brother began him bartending ("at a very young age and definitely illegally") in small pubs in his hometown of Morristown, NJ. He worked his way through the better cocktail lounges, clubs and hotels in NYC and Brooklyn, then moved to the management side. He's currently the Food and Beverage Manager at the Tribeca Grand Hotel.

TRIBECA GRAND'S MATTHEW GREEN.
2 Oz. rye whiskey (Preference: Michter's Single Barrel Straight Rye Whiskey. "It's based on one of the older rye recipes being produced, which dates back to 1753.  And anyone who knows Manhattans, knows that the only whiskey used in the original recipes is rye.")

.5 Oz. Antica Sweet Vermouth
6-8 dashes of bitters
(Preferences: "The best bitters are usually from the class known as 'aromatic.' Most aromatic bitters have familiar spice flavors — cinnamon, cloves and cardamom, along with vanilla and leather notes if they're oak-aged.")

Orange peel

Rub an orange peel around the rim of a "rocks glass" ("Martini glasses should be used for Martini's. Mixed cocktails should be properly served in a rocks glass."). Fill the glass half way with ice cubes. In a shaker full of ice, combine the whiskey, vermouth and bitters. Shake and pour. Garnish.

NOTE: This hotel is a fave for film screenings. Do yourself a favor and check out the lobby bar. It's comfy and sexy.
THE FINAL PRESENTATION.