I used to be a daddy's girl and mine was a bourbon drinker. "Was" because he's mostly dry now except when a bottle of wine or beer at the Whole Foods is just too damn tempting. But in those early years, before life happened and we were still thick as thieves and my poor mother was the odd one out, he drank bourbon. Lots of it, every night, mostly in the form of a manhattan.
The first drink was before dinner, made almost immediately after taking off his coat and setting aside his briefcase. He'd carry it with him as he puttered around the house (with me in tow) doing various Dad-like things. The second one came after he finished the dishes, which he did most nights because it gave him a chance to listen to the radio uninterrupted. He would call me in from wherever and I would sit on the kitchen counter while he'd make his drink, explaining the what and the why of each step. I would get to dip a finger in the finished drink to taste. I'd also usually get to eat the cherry from the third drink. It wasn't until I was older that I'd still be up for the fourth and maybe fifth drinks, when he'd become morose and full of regrets.
By the time I was six, I was typically making the third manhattan of the night. Before my crazy teen years, their divorce, his depression, and all of the other things that created distance, I learned a lot of things from my dad. How to score a baseball game, throw a semi-decent spiral, and not shy away from expressing my opinions were just some of the better ones, but the manhattan has probably been the most useful. It's a drink that got me my first bartending job — off the books, still too young to drink legally, and in the most divey of dives. Along with sports, it has given me an "in" with the old boys clubs I've encountered at various points in my career. And, at a time when I'm trying to be a better daughter to a father who is trying, it reminds me of when he had no faults and was my closest human.
My Dad's Manhattan
First, the ingredients:
Bourbon. I'm not going to judge if you use rye, you fucking hipster, but this is a bourbon manhattan. In order to keep it from being too sweet, I tend to use bourbons with higher rye content.
Vermouth. Should be sweet, not dry. No need to go fancy, Martini & Rossi or Cinzano are fine. If you want to experiment with higher-end stuff, I'm partial to the fairly bitter Punt e Mes.
Bitters. Just use Angostura. If you want to make your own, fine, but nothing pisses me off more than people talking about artisanal bitters.
Twist. I go with the classic maraschino cherry but wouldn't kick a lemon twist out of bed for eating crackers.
Ice. Should be cracked because manhattans should be cold.
A glass of some kind. The shape really doesn't matter but, for temperature purposes, you should skip over the paper or plastic cup. If you have time, chill the glass for 20-30 minutes before making the drink. Or just keep a glass in the fridge at all times.
Ok, get to drink making:
1. Put your cracked ice in something appropriate for mixing, like a bowl, a pitcher, or a clean bathtub.
2. Add two parts bourbon, one part vermouth, and however many dashes of bitters suits your fancy. I recommend starting with one healthy dash for each ounce of bourbon.
3. Now stir until it is nice and cold. Gently, please: too vigorous and you might as well shake it, which will make the drink cloudier and less silky on the tongue. A spoon of any kind will work. You can also use fingers but please wash your (or someone else's) hands first.
4. Strain into your chilled or unchilled glass or glasses. What you use to strain is up to you; the point is just to get rid of the ice cubes.
5. Add your chosen twist, drink, repeat.