Yesterday was Easter and we were at home with a turkey slowly smoking over hickory chips in the back yard. Indolence naturally ensued. With a doff of the fedora to the fussy grammarian at the center of the late Lawrence Sanders’ Archy McNally novels, one do get thirsty at times like this. (Please, no gear-grinding over this construction, just take it like a person.) So I stirred up what you see here.
Yes, I know if you can’t see through it, it isn’t a martini. Get over it. This is a manhattan. Life is full of surprises and serendipity. Besides, it was time to see if anything could taste as good as gin and dry vermouth massaged over ice of a late afternoon.
Allow me to blame this excursion on Chris, another of my martini-swilling pals. Sure, he lives in San Francisco, so what can he know about real cocktailing? Still, he had recently turned me on to the forbidden pleasure of top-shelf Bulleit bourbon in a manhattan made with the brown stuff down the hill at Spoonful. Lordy, was it ever tasty.
Sometime later, however, my muddled mind had turned to the manhattan and its origin in the city it is named after. And it dawned, perhaps more slowly than in years past, that the original cocktail on its home turf invariably was made with rye whiskey—or at least a whiskey like Canadian Club that is distilled partly from rye.
That was then. Now the super-premium spirits revolution has given us a handful of exalted rye whiskeys made entirely or almost so with that grain as the primary ingredient. And Bulleit, wouldn’t you know, is one of them. This remarkably smooth, rich whiskey is 95 percent rye, and man is it ever good in a manhattan. Just employ a generous hand with the Angostura Bitters and a restrained one with the sweet vermouth (use one made with real sugar). And find that little jar Maraschino cherries that you put in the refrigerator years ago somewhere in the back.
But now to answer the question surely on everyone’s lips, yes Bulleit rye has made it onto the top shelf of better saloons and retail establishments. And like twice-named New York, New York, we have added a second picture of that Easter manhattan.