57th Street Manhattan
Among my aunt's many admirable traits is her ability to smoke a cigarette right down to the stub, with the ash dangling precariously but never dropping into the cooking. Another is her skill at making a classic Manhattan.
An Anglophile and a fan of the Churchills, she uses Canadian Club, the base said to have been poured for Winston's mother, Lady Randolph, in the very first version of the cocktail. Rye whiskies are preferred nowadays, but at BLT Steak in Harbour City the spirit of choice is Jim Beam, a bourbon.
The original BLT Steak, a classic steakhouse in New York opened by cheeky French chef Laurent Tourondel, just happens to be on 57th Street, a thoroughfare that boasts plenty of upmarket, branded boutiques. Is it a coincidence that Harbour City in Canton Road was chosen for the Hong Kong branch?
Certainly, this cocktail would be quite a corrective for anyone who had spent a day chez Gucci or Prada.
Bartender Nishesh Rai probably wouldn't refuse to mix you a Manhattan with either Canadian Club or a rye, but feels the Jim Beam gives more of a punch. It does.
Rai's aim was to create something more resembling a Martini, or more simply, 'to make something nice'.
In the classic formula for the drink, cherries are almost a garnish - here their flavour is a powerful part of the mix. They are as crushed as the hopes of anyone hoping to shop in this area without blowing a small fortune. The cocktail has a pleasing appearance - a thin layer of white foam sits on top of a blood-orange-toned drink, with a visible layer of cherries at the bottom.
The first aroma that hits you is that of the Angostura bitters, one of Trinidad's many contributions to the world of libations. After that the Jim Beam and the cherries compete for attention on the nose, as they do in the mouth.
The bourbon's sweetness and texture is undeniably there, but is well balanced by the fruit. As well balanced as the ash on my dear old aunt's ciggy.
30ml Jim Beam bourbon whiskey
30ml Grand Marnier 30ml Martini Rosso
2 dashes of Angostura Bitters
Muddle the cherries and place them in a Boston cocktail shaker with the other ingredients. Shake vigorously and serve in a chilled martini glass.