There are a handful of cocktails that every aspiring sophisticate should know how to make: the Martini, the Old Fashioned, the French 75, the Sazerac, the Sidecar, and my personal favorite, the Manhattan. Popular lore tells us that the cocktail derives its name from the Manhattan Club and was invented for a party hosted by Lady Randolph Churchill, the mother of the British Bulldog Sir Winston Churchill. Origin stories are often suspect and this one especially so…but I choose to believe it. There are lots of variations based on the type of whisky used: I’ve had them made with Bourbon, rye, Scotch, or Canadian whiskies. When I make them, I stick to the classic formulation that used Rye. Rye fell out of favor after Prohibition but has been thankfully revived. Another sin against American taste was that our pallets had been forced to endure cheap, mass produced Vermouth like Martini & Rossi that ruined Manhattans and Martinis; there are thankfully high quality alternatives now available.
After substantial experimentation and trial and error (you’re welcome) I have arrived at the following ingredients and ratio for what, to my taste, contains the proper mix of bitter, boozy, and sweet with a smooth mouthfeel.
The Manhattan Cocktail
2 oz. Bulleit Rye Whisky
1 oz. Carpano Antica Formula (Sweet) Vermouth
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
Luxardo Maraschino Cherry for garnish
Fill a cocktail pitcher or shaker with ice and add the first three ingredients. Stir (never shake!) for 30 seconds or so. Gently strain into a cocktail glass or coupe and garnish with the cherry. A nice variation on the above recipe is to substitute Averna Amaro for the Carpano Vermouth, thus making a Black Manhattan. However, what I really want to talk about is the old clock on which I recently did a mini restoration.
I am often delighted by the strange threads that tie us to the people of the past. Restoring objects often revels these threads if we are fortunate enough to know a bit about where the object came from—this is why collectors are so attentive to documenting the provenance of valuable pieces of art or jewelry, or furniture. In my case, I tend toward more modest objects; partly because of my pay grade, but also because I am far more interested in the lives and objects of everyday folks. The latest such object to come my way is a Telechron clock, model number 7H79 produced sometime between 1932 and 1938. It belonged to the grandfather of a dear friend and colleague of mine and was in need of some light restoration. This restoration also involves the Manhattan cocktail.
This is the Telechron 7H79 “Sexton”
The one that was passed along to me was originally owned by Joseph Brotherton Maclean. Mr. Maclean immigrated to the United States from Scotland, traveling steerage from Glasgow with his brother Alec. He received his diploma from a Scottish high school where he demonstrated an aptitude for numbers. He went on to land a job as an actuary calculating life expectancy after arriving in the United States. He returned to Scotland to fight on behalf of the land of his birth in the First World War. Surviving the war, her returned to the U.S. Later in life he would stroll around Central Park in New York City with his daughter quizzing her on algebra and trigonometry and referring to her as “Bonehead McGluck” when she got a wrong answer—she went on to earn a degree in physics from M.I.T. His granddaughter is a fellow social researcher; we are both stats nerds. By all accounts, Mr. Maclean could also handle his booze, and had a special affinity for the Manhattan cocktail. He employed said cocktail against his future son in law, getting him stumbling drunk on his first meet and greet with the family into which he would eventually marry.
Overall, the Telechron was in decent shape. The case was a bit scratched and grimy and the cord was worse for wear, but the motor still ran and alarm still rang. I disassembled the brown plastic case, cleaned the glass, and soldered in a new cord.
I purchased a fabric insulated wire (in keeping with the original) and was able to find a new plug that was identical to the one it left the factory with—thanks to the fine folks at Sundial Wire for providing both.
I hit the plastic case with some No. 7 rubbing compound and No. 7 polishing compound. I am very happy with the results.
I love the Art Deco design of the case and number font. Whenever I look at the clock I think of Mr. Maclean who fought for his country and with whom I share a love of statistics and the Manhattan Cocktail. If it were not for him, I wouldn’t get to work with one of my favorite colleagues who a few weeks ago brought me a clock.