I was recently inspired by something that wasn’t. My cousin had sent me a box of artifacts from my Uncle Ed and Aunt Pat’s estates. They had both passed away last year after a long and good life together and my cousin thought I might want some of their things.
Included in the box of treasures I received was one very sad, very broken glass. Broken beyond repair but not beyond glimpsing what it would have looked like. It was dissimilar to any of my current glasses so I started searching for something similar and discovered it was most likely a ‘champagne coupe.’ Fancied at one time for champagne, it has a wider and shallower bowl than a wine glass and was unlike anything else in my relatively comprehensive stock of glassware. Of course, losing that glass made me want one all the more and in my search for a replacement, I found one of the early uses was for serving Manhattans. The perfect opportunity was almost at hand to feature this storied cocktail for The Friday Cocktail. A cocktail from times gone by when men were men and didn’t mind drinking from a daintier glass!
I searched high and low; I went online and found some by Kate Spade, she of the overpriced designer category, and others by Waterford, still overpriced but a name that I would more proudly attribute to my stemware. I finally found the perfect reasonably priced glasses by Libbey (remember, I just wanted them for a couple of photos) but I was not interested in an entire case. Drat!! Finally, feeling a bit desperate, I decided to contact my favorite restaurant and see if they had one I could borrow. I can not deny that once I get it in my head that I want something done a certain way I am most definitely a woman on a mission!
I called YaYa’s in the Denver Tech Center, a restaurant located nearby. I consider YaYa’s my own personal Cheers where ‘almost’ everyone knows my name. When I talked to Scott, the manager, he said they didn’t have any in the restaurant but he thought he had some at home packed away. His own family artifacts that he didn’t want to get rid of but also didn’t use (haven’t we all been there?). Scott offered to check and let me know. The following morning his email was like a gift, he had found his cache and would drop off a package at YaYa’s for me to pickup. Tell me, how many restaurant managers will do that for you? YaYa’s will always fix mussels the way I like them no matter what the current menu offering is and I love that but this was over and beyond. So… many thanks Scott. What? I can keep the glasses too? All FOUR of them? I already thought you the best and now my readers know why.
The Manhattan is an elegant cocktail with a rich history; some of it fabricated to lend more glory to its name but all leading to it originating in Manhattan, one of the five Burroughs of New York City. By all accounts it originated in the later part of the 19th century and has seen a resurgence often attributed to the popularity of ‘Mad Men‘ – a television show that chronicles the lives and social mores of the 1960′s in America. I’ll be honest. I’m not a fan. Let’s just say that my parents both enjoyed a Manhattan. They were a part of that 60′s generation that drank too much and partied too hard; there were affairs and a divorce and in a real soap opera twist; a re-marriage. By them. To each other. Watching that play out on the small screen hit a bit too close to home so I’ve kept my distance from the show as much as I’ve kept my distance from a Manhattan all these many years.
While I never expect my decision on the television series to wane, I was convinced to give a Manhattan a try at a recent cocktail party. Not wanting to appear rude (I mean I will eat dreaded green pepper if necessary to not upset a host and I HATE green pepper), I acquiesced and decided to see what all the fuss was about. Well, it’s about a fabulous drink, that’s what it’s about!
This is no lightweight drink. Recognizing that my taste in wine has segued from Boone’s Farm to a nice Cabernet over the years, I’m quite certain that if someone had introduced me to this cocktail those many years ago; it would have been received less than favorably. This is booze, pure and simple. Despite some controversy over where it began, one area without controversy is the continued popularity of the drink. It is still considered one of the finest cocktails ever conceived and on every bars list of best cocktails.
Purists (who are these people anyhow?!!) presume that the only way to create a Manhattan is with Rye Whiskey, Sweet Vermouth and Bitters but there are those who cry sacrilege if not using Dry Vermouth. Most concede that Rye Whiskey is the liquor of choice but bartender choices run the gamut from Bourbon to Rye to Canadian Whiskey. For me it has to be Rye but I’m more forgiving with the Vermouth depending on tastes, personally preferring Sweet Vermouth. Bitters are seeing a huge boon in popularity right now and the choices are endless but this is a Manhattan and Angostura bitters are a must. Sometimes something is so good that you simply don’t need to mess with success.
If the Manhattan is considered one of the finest cocktails ever conceived it deserves a great appetizer. While I enjoy a traditional pate too, I decided to pair the cocktail this time with a Mushroom Paté; my take on an appetizer that I could imagine being served with a Manhattan all those many years ago when it first gained notoriety. It’s rich and decadent but also something that would appeal to all of my friends including the vegetarians among them.
I’ve been making this paté for a very long time…or at least one like it. This is the first time I’ve ever considered actually writing down the ingredients that I use. I first had it served at a party I attended a decade ago and all I could get from the hostess was that it was a combination of sautéed mushrooms and cream cheese so I’m sure I’m made a revision to it each and every time I’ve put it together but I must say, I think this was the best. Maybe it was that extra clove of garlic?
It’s easy to prepare and can be held in the refrigerator overnight so it’s a great appetizer if you want to make something ahead of time. I actually think it’s best if given some time for the flavors to meld so try this next time you’re having a get together and want to make it easier for you…anything you can make a day ahead is a bonus.
- 2 oz rye whiskey
- ½ oz sweet vermouth
- 2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
- Maraschino cherries for garnish (I’ve used my own version which are a combination of sour cherries and Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur)
- Pour the ingredients into a mixing glass with ice cubes.
- Stir well.
- Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
- Garnish with the cherries.
- 3 Tbsp butter
- 12-16 oz sliced mushrooms
- 4 stalks green onion, sliced
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- 4 Tbsp Medium Dry or Dry Sherry
- 6 ounces cream cheese
- 1tsp fresh thyme or rosemary
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Parsley for garnish
- Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat
- Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté for 3-4 minutes until softened.
- Add the green onion, garlic and Sherry and saute for 3-4 more minutes til the garlic is cooked but not browned.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
- Put herbs, cream cheese and mushroom mixture into food processor and pulse gently until mixed thoroughly but not completely smooth.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Pack into 2 serving crocks and refrigerate for 2 hours minimum.
- Sprinkle with chopped parsley and service with crackers or toast points. With a Manhattan!