After a trip to snowy Kansas City, I'm back in San Diego where the sun has rarely felt so good. I wasn't even home from the airport before I unbuttoned my heavy chamois shirt and hoped I'd remembered to leave iced tea in the fridge.
One of the most surprising moments came, though, when I walked into my parents' house and my mother suggested that I would probably like a Manhattan. On the verge of saying "No, that's ok, I'm just happy with tea by the fire," I saw she had set up a bar on the kitchen table. Just for us. There was whiskey in a flat-bottomed antique captain's decanter, Angostura bitters, cherries, a cherry-grabber far older than I, and great old glassware. That first night, we had Manhattans in my grandmother's heavy lead crystal tumblers.
The second night, we had them in my great-grandmother's champagne glasses. Now, my great-grandmother died in 1926, so lord knows how old those glasses actually are. They only hold about three ounces, but the stems are hollow, so the whiskey goes almost all the way to the table top.
It's not my usual way to make Manhattans, but when I saw a bowl of fruit, I grabbed an orange, peeled off two wide swaths, and gave the drinks a dose of California. The syrup-laced cherry one usually finds in a Manhattan is optional. Use one or not as you see fit, but don't muddle if you do.
ManhattanYou can also swap lemon for the orange and add a dash of absinthe. But my mother is a respectable lady, and unlike me, does not keep absinthes on hand.
2 oz bourbon
1 oz sweet vermouth
2-3 dashes of bitters
orange peel (with no white pith)
Rim the glass with the orange peel, twist it into a spiral, give a squeeze over the glass, and drop it in. Add liquids to a separate ice-filled container. If using a cherry, drop it in. Stir until chilled, strain into the prepared glass. Drink it while, as some old-timers say, it's still smiling at you.