Saturday, September 24, 2011

First We Take Manhattan!

"Big Apple Manhattan" at the Yew Bar - Four Season Hotel, Vancouver

Ahh, well not exactly, and I sure as hell don't take Berlin next, as Leonard Cohen mysteriously once crooned in the late '80's.

I'm taking Vancouver instead!  I had to come here for work.  Got up this morning at 4 a.m., caught a flight out of Fredericton at 6:10 a.m., flew to Montreal, got delayed, eventually got on a plane to Vancouver, only to arrive at 11:15 am!  Ouch!  Jet lag!  By evening, I had been up like way too many hours to even do the math.  Hadn't eaten all day, other than those stale pretzels served by tireless stewardesses.  Anyway, I felt quite foggy before sipping that beautiful doll pictured above and below!

Just a little more whisky cocktail porn!  I couldn't resist!

Knowing that I had to come to Vancouver, I thought I would take the opportunity to develop a nice post for this blog.  I just had a general idea.  You see I am not big on structure, to-do lists, strategic plans, action plans, change management and all that MBA mumbo-jumbo.  I'd rather just wing-it.  So, I landed in this fantastic city thinking, I dunno what I am going to write about, but I am going to write something.

The first thought that came into my head was that I am not going to sip new single malts and review them.  That just seemed to damn obvious.  The second thought (I don't have a lot, so I can count them!) that just came out of nowhere, was to check-out some cocktails, and so here we are at the Four Seasons Hotel.

Maybe not splitting the atom, but damn, it's important work!

The Manhattan has been around a long time, like back to the late 19th century, and probably originated at the Manhattan Club in New York city.  It's has endured as classic cocktail because it makes rye whisky or American bourbon palatable for the non-aficionado consumer of spirits.  It's smooth, with a playful little bit and sometimes dry.  This cocktail takes the bourbon or Canadian whisky and showcases the black cherry and oak flavors with a great battle of sweet and dry vermouth for dominance.  Caramel and dark fruit are there too.  A supremely satisfying drink. 

Various Recipes
Surf the web, pick up a book, and you will get variations on a common theme.

  • 2 oz Canadian whisky (Alberta Premium is what they used at the Four Seasons);
  • 1/2 oz of sweet vermouth;
  • add a dash or two of dry vermouth;
  • marashino cherry
  • 3 or 4 dashes of Angostura bitters;

The barman making my Manhattan.

Mixing Instructions
  • stir all the above ingredients in your mixing glass with lots of ice;
  • let it sit for a moment so the flavors can meld well;
  • pour into tumbler, garnish with the maraschino cherry.
I like my Manhattans a little on the dry side and with some spiced bite of the whisky.  So, dry vermouth dashed on is a must as well as using good quality whisky.  Some Manhattans are made with bourbon.  Maker's Mark is what they used at a very hip and swank Vancouver eatery: Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar.

Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar - Vancouver

This is a fantastic restaurant for those seeking the finest seafood and sushi.  The sushi chef is Japanese (very rare in Canada) and makes his own soya sauce.  It's to die for.  Have a couple of tuna or eel rolls with a fine beer or light whisky, and after that you can shoot me because I just entered Heaven.

Besides the world class dining on sushi, this establishment takes great pride in relation to its 100+ single malts.  Sushi?  whisky? great ambience, my life's work is complete. 

Blu Water Cafe Bar - Vancouver

The Manhattan was good, but a little sweet.  I forgot to pipe up to the barman while he was making it that I like it more on the dry side, which would have meant just the addition of dry vermouth. 
. . .

The Manhattan is a drink that show cases Canadian rye whisky or bourbon.  Done well, it will be a little tart, a little sweet, but then becoming dry on the finish.  Every bartender has his/her own twist on this classic.  For example, at the Yew bar, the finishing touch of the barman was to place my drink in front of me, then light a wedge of orange on fire and drop it in my drink!  The carmelized and slightly burnt orange wedge imparted great flavors that intermingled with the black cherry flavors of the rye whisky very well.  Unique and flavorful!

Back at the hotel, following dinner I decided to have a final night cap.  After much deliberation, "The Elizabeth Taylor Cocktail" was the winner.  Getting to sleep was no longer a problem following that number.


Jason Debly
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