Quit F*&$%in' With My Manhattans!!!!

Honestly, I'm not the anal retentive type. I have few rules when it comes to my bar, which is the way I think it should be. I may grumble about making Long Island Iced Teas or Bloody Mary's or Duck Fart shots, but they don't make me mad. A careless Manhattan, though? Don't get me started...

Actually, it's too late... the pump has been primed and I'm already on a roll. Put on your seat belt and grab a helmet....


Just got done reading an article in the latest Food and Wine about Philadelphia. In the article, Editor Dana Cowin mentions having a great cocktail scene is part of what makes a great food city, then goes on to mention the best cocktail in the city is a Manhattan.... wait for it...shaken by Kip Waide at Southwark.


Now, Dana Cowin should know better. Each year, Cowin and friends travel the country and release a wonderful collection of original and classic cocktails prepared by the best bartenders in the best bars. Sooooooo, Dana, how can I say this nicely....

If the best cocktail in the city is a SHAKEN Manhattan, you've got to get the hell out of that town!!!!!

The only good Manhattan is a stirred one. Made with good rye or superior bourbon. Furthermore, it should have a rich vermouth (not the cheap crap. Vya is the choice here). A healthy dash of bitters too. Then stirred. No Manhattan should come with a head on it. One more time....

...no Manhattan should come with a head on it!!!

And if the bartender insists on shaking the crap out of one, step away from the bar...in fact, turn your back and walk out. If you must stay, order a beer.

As I like to say, life is too short for crappy drinks.


murraystenson said...


Anonymous said...

You should be advised that in a great many years of drinking of Manhattans, in a great number of cities, I find Kip's rye manhattan at Southwark to be one of the top 3 I've ever had. Southwark, also, on the whole, is a fine establishment, & serves on a daily basis the finest Ramos gin fizz in the Northeast. Drop in before you knock it. Cheers.

Rocky said...

Preach it brother!

keith waldbauer said...

Thanks for swinging by anonymous, and leaving your comment. And I always tip my cap to any establishment whipping up Ramos Fizzes. The problem I have is just with the shaken element...now, that might have been carelessly written in by the editor, too.

Anonymous said...

I think you'd be very impressed with the establishment in question. The food to the drink, the quality of the staff -- there's a uniquely Philadelphia-vibe in the sense of 1940s Philadelphia (which is to say, 1940s United States). The largest selection of ryes on the eastern seaboard (which is to say, I think, barring recent developments, the largest in the country), and the finest selection of gins in several states; mind you, in the tightest, nastiest controlled market in the country (Pennsylvania is a multi-billion dollar liquor market, vastly larger than its closest peers, which is to say the province of Ontario and the country of Norway - every obscure cocktail ingredient available in this state, the gentlemen of Southwark have spent months negotiating with the PLCB, and often enormous fiduciary expenses, for the love of the trade, thereby making it available to those who care to follow); and the ability and the willingness to make just about anything. All local and fresh ingredients, in food and cocktail.

The bartender and the chef, husband and wife, have put their hearts and their lives into this place, and it shows.


I dropped in this evening (I live 5 blocks away, in a walking city), and ordered a manhattan. With the usual aplomb, and the usual level of service, it was prepared immediately. & _shaken_. Touche. As the head bartender of another bar (which will go unnamed), a bartender at yet another establishment, and the owner of a beverage management and consulting firm with a bent towards the classic and tradition, I train staff rigorously to prepare, and sell vehemently, manhattans of just the method that you advocate. Regardless, however, the beverage, qua manhattan, was perfect -- you know that delightful interplay which ought to be in the beverage, the restraint, the tact, the class, and the punch.

I've had inferior manhattans served to me at a number of name establishments out here -- Milk & Honey, the Rainbow Room, the Pegu Club. Inferior, that is, to the one I drank this evening, which was prepared 'incorrectly.' The only ones on the same level that I've had were at (a.) Painter's Inn in Cornwall-on-Hudson, (b.) Passerby in Chelsea, NYC, and (c.) a little dive bar in Philadelphia that will remain nameless by the bartender's request.

Methodologies are fine for argument and discussion; they're crucial for replication. Deviation from orthodoxy and tradition by a professional and an artist, however, who manages to achieve distinction within class nonetheless, while occasionally to be damned and envied, is not to be idly written off.

The manhattan, like all cocktails, has frequently changed -- brandy, to rye, to bourbon (I have fine regular customers from Wisconsin who swear by a brandy manhattan -- who am I to argue?); bitters, to none, and back again; vermouth, to (shudders) cherry juice; maraschino cherry, to imitation maraschino cherry, to twist, and back again; delmonico glass to martini to rocks glass and back and forth; rocks or no. Stirred or shaken?

It's not a preparation, it's a flavor, an idea.

de gustibus non disputandum est.

All I have to say is, that were you to visit Philadelphia tomorrow, and not drop in at Southwark, you'd do yourself a disservice as a lover of cocktails over a point of etiquette. You might find that, in fact, you were missing the best cocktail in Philadelphia. & who's to say that's not the finest you've ever had?

Wrmst rgrds, and keep up the excellent writing.

A Philadelphia resident, Seattle born and raised.

keith waldbauer said...

well put, and eloquently so, anonymous.

Jeffrey Morgenthaler said...

I picked up the same copy of Food and Wine last week, and must have opened directly to that page. Ugh. I was as aghast as you were.

However, Anonymous has a great point. Hell, at my bar we make a version of the Manhattan with Licor 43 over crushed ice!

Like Gary Regan says, "There are no rules!"