I grew up drinking Manhattans. At every holiday my Italian grandfather, Louie, would make Manhattans. He had a fancy, gold drink cart with an almost silver ice bucket. Louie made a big deal about making each of us a cocktail. When we were young, my sisters and I got more ice than drink but the ritual of it made us feel grown-up and special. What girl wouldn't want the glossy red, sweet cherry that floated on top?
As my sisters and I grew up and began to bring boyfriends and eventually husbands home, they were included in the drink order. My first husband, one out of two, Randy, once asked for a gin and tonic and Louie said, "Sure."
Randy got a Manhattan.
Louie questioned me later: "Is Randy alright in the head?" I said, "Apparently not." I thought it was obvious that Louie would give him a Manhattan, the same way all our cocktails napkins said, "Vanessi's." Not our name, rather a famous San Francisco restaurant a few blocks away. One of my uncles worked on the "G" truck, and the restaurant had thrown out a case of perfectly good cocktails napkins when they changed their logo. How lucky can you get? Capiche? In my family, I learned early that nothing went to waste or actually was what it seemed. Better to enjoy it or get out of the parade.
Louie died and his son, my father, had a swanky full bar in his big home and along with my darling grandfather, the Manhattan also died in our family.
I recently found myself in an old Chicago restaurant. It was all polished wood, leather booths and spotless, tile floors. When the very dapper Italian waiter in his starched red jacket asked me what I wanted to drink, I ordered a Manhattan. It appeared. Shaken, cold, dark, and deep with flavor. I started to cry. Then I ordered another one. My Louie had come back to me.
I have decided to bring the Manhattan back. Here is a recipe, and you must make one and tell me if you like it. Make a pitcher, as it's a great party drink. I make mine with Maker's Mark bourbon. Rye or Canadian Club is delicious, too.
The Manhattan first appeared in a bartender's guide in 1880 but I declare that it is not an old lady's drink; it's a classic!
2 ounces Maker's Mark
1 ounce Sweet Vermouth
Big dash Angostura Bitters
Pour all ingredients into a shaker with crushed ice. Strain and pour into
a frosted glass. Sometimes I use a half-breast champagne glass so I can feel like a princess.