The return of crisp, cool autumn air beckons the past. It conjures feelings of nostalgia, a need for something warm, familiar and classic.
The simple, smoky Manhattan represents this return to the season. The good Manhattan's fragrance connects to the world of Don Draper or, even further back, to Prohibition-era glamour. To me, the setting for enjoying a good Manhattan only contributes to the lore of the cocktail — and nowhere embodies the sophistication of the drink more than the Prime Rib in Mount Vernon.
"Classic" is a ubiquitous term on the bar scene but the Prime Rib lives and breathes the idea. It has been in operation for more than 50 years; beverage manager John F. Klaus has been there for half that time — 25 years of tending bar. That's commitment to the craft. The restaurant is styled as a New York supper club, replete with tuxedoed staff, black and gold trimmed walls, leopard print carpet and the original art deco work of artist Louis Icart. There's live music — a trio of piano, bass, and saxophone-nightly.
General Manager David Derewicz notes that the Prime Rib's Manhattan is akin to the atmosphere. "That's the difference in ordering a Manhattan here," he says. "Whether you order yours with Bourbon, rye or blended whiskey, you're getting a high-quality drink." And this is not the place to fall back on rail liquor. Derewicz notes that the standard pours include Jim Beam, Catoctin Creek Roundstone Organic and Seagram's 7.
Klaus can customize your Manhattan according to your palate. But by far the most popular variation, the one that the Prime Rib uses for its Classic Manhattan cocktail, is made with Maker's Mark and Dolin Sweet Vermouth. This version is everything you want a Manhattan to be: strong yet subtle, flavorful and smooth but not overbearing. Here, the vermouth is not over-done, allowing the mellow, caramel taste of the Maker's to shine through.
If you've never had a Manhattan, do yourself a favor and start somewhere that sets the bar high. The Prime Rib isn't interested in messing up a good thing or substituting luxury for trend. And in doing so, it manages to be both ageless and enduring.
How to Make The Manhattan
2 parts Maker's Mark Bourbon
1 part Dolin Sweet Vermouth
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1 Luxardo Original maraschino cherry
Shake or stir all together for 30 seconds. Strain into chilled Manhattan glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry (served up, no ice).
Where to Get The Manhattan
The Prime Rib
1101 N. Calvert St., Mount Vernon