If you’re going to make New York cheesecake, you’ve got to have a New York cocktail to go along with it. Ever heard of a little drink called the Manhattan? We can thank New York socialite Jennie Jerome for its inception. 1874 was a big year for the 20-year-old Ms. Jerome. She married Lord Randolph Churchill at the British embassy in Paris and gave birth to a son, Winston, just seven months after the wedding. That same year, she held a reception for New York Governor Samuel J. Tilden at her father’s mansion on the corner of 26th and Madison (aka the Manhattan Club) and asked the bartender to create a special drink in honor of the fête. The rye whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters concoction was a hit.
Some drink historians insist this combination was created elsewhere before Jerome’s party, but I say just shut up and enjoy your Manhattan. The original recipe calls for rye, sweet vermouth, a dash of bitters and a cherry that has been soaked in brandy or eau de vie. Times have changed, and in most bars, rye is often substituted with bourbon and a simple maraschino cherry has replaced the booze-soaked cherry. I happen to think the bright red cherry contrasts beautifully with the amber liquor.
For a smooth Manhattan, mix a jigger of bourbon, 1/3 jigger of sweet vermouth, a splash of bitters and three ice cubes in a mixing glass. Stir slowly. Place one cherry in a cocktail glass and strain the mixture over it. Drink one of these and you’ll be hungry for New York cheesecake in no time.