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Issue 83 - Manhattan expedition

Whisky Magazine Issue 83
October 2009


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Manhattan expedition

Two barflys go in search of the perfect classic cocktail in this iconic part of New York.

Few are the foods and drinks that bear the simultaneous honour and burden of capturing an entire city, its mood and energy, its essence and character, in a sensory blitz of smells, tastes, textures and appearance. We can start with the obvious, like the hamburger, hearty, assured and unyielding; Peking duck, piquant and mysterious; and Yorkshire pudding, a comfort food, which to eat, for many, is like coming home.

And then there is the Manhattan, a marriage of rye whiskey and vermouth spiced up with bitters. As myth has it, it was created in something of a bit of an improvisational whim out of a highpressure fix.

It was 1874 and Jennie Jerome, Winston Churchill's socialite mother, was hosting a soiree at the swanky Manhattan Club to celebrate the election of a new mayor. She needed a signature drink, and this harmonic blend was the mixture the barkeep invented.

To this day, however, the Manhattan, at least to this writer, who grew up in an outer borough, manages to capture the rush and exuberance, style and classy intensity of the city, from its refined dining rooms to its gritty alleys. With that in mind, I embarked on a pursuit to imbibe Manhattans throughout Manhattan. That mission was quickly modified, or maybe it's better to say broadened to include a few drinks in Brooklyn. As a logical consequence given the task at hand, that meant sampling a few different versions of the classic cocktail.

After all, since its legendary inception into the cocktail cannon, it's been...

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