Y'all know about the search for the perfect martini, right? It consists of minimizing the vermouth until you reach the point of homeopathy where, statistically, the odds of there being a single molecule of vermouth in the gin are a zillion to one. Really, it's a chest-pounding guy thing.
But what about the perfect Manhattan? This is not about perfect steely fascist purity. No! It's about taste and mellow sinfulness. A Manhattan is the kind of drink your sophisticated and scandalous aunt would drink. It's is the most flavorful cocktail that you'd ever seriously consider putting into your mouth, this side of a grasshopper.
"Rye? I've never heard of it," said the bartendroid at the otherwise-admirable Chestnut Hill Grill. So perhaps I need to explain. A Manhattan is made up of three shots rye, one shot sweet vermouth, and a dash of bitters. Drop in a maraschino cherry. Serve in a chilled glass. Sounds good, doesn't it? Sweet as a sunset over New York City.
But it can be improved.
Let's start with the rye. Instead of Jim Beam, which is a superior product sold at an insanely reasonable price, Marianne and I used Rittenhouse Rye. A Pennsylvania whiskey (obviously, if you're a Philadelphia local) which is NOT available in the state store system and which has a darker amber color and a rich flavor reminiscent of caramel . Who could wonder why I bought a bottle illegally in Delaware? We added the sweet vermouth. Then we shot in a dash or two per drink of Fee Brothers cherry bitters.
The piece de resistance? Hand-made brandied cherries with various spices. (The full recipe will be posted after Marianne decides her recipe is just-so. Now, it's merely exquisite.)
And the result? Oh, dear God. A Manhattan is the drink you'd be holding in your hand while listening to Dorothy Parker trash reputations. Marianne's improved Manhattan is the drink you'd be holding while you one-upped her. With Duke Ellington playing the piano in the same room.
I will provide further updates as the search for perfection continues. Those of you who have recipe suggestions are encouraged to post them here.