Apologies in advance for the long story.
Mine is also a Manhattan, but there's a story (of course--isn't there always?).
So in late September I got a notice from one of my liquor reps about a Woodford Reserve contest/promotion happening in Houston in early October. I entered the contest but of course did not get selected, later learned my ingredient list was too exotic (included of Bianco Vermouth and Clear Creek Douglas Fir EdV). Against my better judgement I made the drive to Houston for the promotion, rushing out immidiately after my last class of the day.
Event was at the wonderful Houston Museum of Natural Science, and since I could bring a guest and the fiancee was busy taking care of horses or some such nonsense I invited my good friend who many years ago first piqued my interest in cocktails. He is now in software sales but retains a fascination with mixed drinks and is a good drinking buddy anyways so we arrived a little early and were eventually admitted within, after a thorough examination of some extremely large geodes.
The drinks served were Manhattans, allegedly prepared according to a highly seductive-looking formula created by none other than our own Dr. Wondrich (I must admit that some part of my willingness to drive two hours to engage in this foolishness was in hopes that he might be there--his name was mentioned on the invite--but sadly this was not to be). The profile of these drinks, being prepared in huge batches, was not quite gelling with the printed recipe, but they were agreeable enough especially when one considers the price. The rationing system was based on tickets handed out upon admittance, 3 per person, and there were other, quite suspect, drinks available for those who did not care to go the Manhattan route. My friend, however, soon realised that one of the fellows dispensing beverages was not actually very diligent about collecting ticket (told you he was a good drinking buddy). Long story a little shorter this involved us each having about 7 Manhattans and then deciding that a visit to Anvil was in order.
Well we arrived there in short order, one way or another, and ordered off their excellent menu, which had been updated since I had been there. We gleefully indulged in our cocktails, while visiting with Justin, an off-duty Anvil bartender who had been a judge at the aforementioned contest (the entries do not bear repeating). For our second round my accomplice returns to the menu. I am, however, in dire need of something that will reconfigure my worldview. If there is anywhere in the Lone Star State I can do that with a potable, I am there. The immense wall of liquor sits silently as I contemplate it. Then I see the tall, slender, brown bottle. And I know just what I need.
Normally I do not order cocktails or even by the glass wine when I go out. Typically I stick with Bourbon on the rocks or with water, or beer. On the rare occasions I bother with anything more complicated than that I am extremely explicit about what I want. Not at Anvil though. There, I am content to let these artists perform their craft and take what comes. The drink I am ordering now, though, will not allow for deviation or improvisation. My world is hazy but my goal is clear. The drink I need now must be made to exacting specifications.
Bobby comes over to us. "I need you to do me a favor...I need a Manhattan--" My friend, hearing me order, is incredulous: "Are you serious, we just drank our weight in Manhattans!"
I start again, "I need a Manhattan, Jerry Thomas Style," I say, not at that time able to recall exactly how JT specifies his Manhattan--though vaguely aware that by the time that recipe appeared in his book he was dead. "I need half George T. Stagg, and half Carpano Antica, up. You choose the bitters...but Angostura would be nice," I quickly add. The inclusion of Carpano Antica is clutch. I have plenty of Stagg at home, but precious little of AF comes to Texas, and much of it ends up at Anvil. I passed up my one chance at a bottle of it some time back, thinking since it was there it would be available with some regularity. Mistake.
Shortly I am presented with a glass. My anticiaption builds. Moses receiving The Law from God could not have been so excited. I bring the glass to my lips and inhale. The scent is both familiar and unfamiliar. A sip.
is a cocktail.
The fact that my next (and final) round was wasted on me says some about my state at the time, but mostly is a statement about the Manhattan I had, since the next drink included the soon-to-be-legendary Smith & Cross Rum. The drink was very nice indeed...but nothing could follow what I'd just drank, not if Harry Craddock himself mixed it.
I later was told that that exact formula is served at PDT, though I can't verify that myself until I am next in NYC (Honeymoon, perhaps!) As it stands, this was the single greatest cocktail of my life. Better than the XO Sidecars. Better than the VSOP punches. Better that the Weller 107 Juleps. Even better than the Thomas Handy/Jade Edouard Sazeracs. Carpano Antica Formula is now my life's pursuit, and no one touches (wastes?) the Stagg until I can find some*.
The story of the next morning is at least as long as this one, but suffice to say Bacchus smiled upon me that day and not my friend, and I made it back to CS in time for my first class of the day. Not much worse for the wear, but even through the relatively mild overhang unable to focus on much of anything.
Except that Manhattan.
And that, my friends, is a Money Cocktail.*Preferably without obscene shipping charges.
Edit to add apologies for length. Hopefully worth the read.
Edited by thirtyoneknots, 09 December 2009 - 12:16 AM.