Old is new, new was old two weeks ago. For what it's worth, this is nothing ... new.
Whether it be the churning tides of fashion, music — or in our case, alcohol — the contributions of shows (well, really just one show) like "Mad Men" have renewed an interest in the classics. Without exception, especially classic cocktails. The Harvey Wallbanger, the Old Fashioned, Box Car, Rob Roy and the granddaddy of them all: The Manhattan.
The Manhattan is the very definition of "classic cocktail." If one were to look up the term in an encyclopedia — something else that is decidedly throwback — the iconic blend of rye and bitters would appear in photographic form, begging for you to spark a nowadays practically outlawed cigarette, slump back into a leather booth and sip away. The Owl Bar's Manhattan achieves this quality in spades.
Manager Averil Barry echoes the sentiment. "It's classic simplicity, which is a perfect fit for Owl Bar's classic nature," she says. While the textbook Manhattan typically uses rye, Owl Bar elevates the drink through the use of Woodford Reserve, a 90-proof small batch whiskey from Kentucky with a woody flavor and a smoothness that masks its potence. Blended with one part Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth and a dash of Angostura bitters, the final product kicks like a mule on steroids and commands slow consumption.
The traditional garnish, a maraschino cherry on a cocktail sabre, remains intact and serves as a sunken treasure awaiting your arrival at cocktail's end. Having soaked in the whiskey-orange flavored goodness along the journey, it gives your taste buds one final blast of booze and a bit of sweetness to complement your elevated blood alcohol level.
If there's one place among a short list of places to enjoy a Manhattan, the storied Owl Bar is certainly in the top three to five. With a lifetime extending well before Prohibition, the vaunted halls of the Belvedere have seen their fair share of Manhattans being poured and consumed, and from what I can tell the atmosphere is as conducive to enjoying one now as it was 80 years ago or more. So sit back and enjoy. But don't light up. That's a $20 fine.
How to make the Owl Bar Manhattan
3 Parts Woodford Reserve Bourbon
1 Part Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth
Dash of Angostura bitters
Pour contents into a shaker, shake and serve up in a chilled martini glass.
Where to get the Owl Bar Manhattan
1 E. Chase St (Inside the Belvedere Hotel, 1st floor), Mount Vernon
$14Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun