Living here in the back of beyond in the Sulphur Springs Valley and the Mule Mountains of Arizona,  I am a lone voice, crying in the wilderness, on the subject of Manhattan cocktails.  I love them, particularly when they are made with a decent bourbon.  I have been in two different neighborhood bars recently, that have experienced local bartenders who didn’t even know how to make one!  I have shared my family’s time-honored recipe with several lof those bartenders, because they made our family’s Happy Hours famous and well attended for 40 years, and it is so simple, it is impossible to forget.

I won’t get into the issue of ‘good’ bourbon vs. a bar’s ‘well’ bourbon, but I do insist that the base *be* bourbon, rather than one of the more common blended whisk(e)ys.  I believe the choice of a red vermouth is purely personal, but I like Noilly-Prat.

Count noses around the table, bar, patio, whatever.  Keep this number in mind, or write it down, if you are on the second or subsequent rounds.

Multiply the number of guests by  four.  Call this number “Ounces of hooch required”  Pour that much bourbon into a frozen pitcher, 2/3 filled with smallish ice cubes.

Multiply the number of guests times two.  Call this “Ounces of vermouth required”  Pour that much vermouth into the iced pitcher mentioned above.

Shake in two dashes of Angostura bitters  for every guest.

Add one tsp of *good* maraschino cherry juice per guest

Prepare toothpicks, or spears,  with three chubby maraschino cherries each.

Get the Manhattan glasses out of the freezer, and fill them, letting God and Nature determine how many rocks go into each glass.  For purists, or fuss-budgets, you may use a strainer.  (I have always thought that if it’s my hooch, and my house, you get what I serve you, but your mileage may vary.)

Put the remainder (you should have about as much volume left as you have already poured) in the freezer.  Some of the ice will melt, making for a somewhat diluted second round, but my father and mother both insisted that one Manhattan is not enough, but two is nearly too many, if you are driving.  This is the subterfuge behind making  a batch and a half.  The second round will refill all the glasses, but will be only half as potent.

A second family rule, for large groups was, “When you have scarfed up all the dry-roasted peanuts, it is time for you to go home.”



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