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‘The Best Outer-Borough Manhattans’

July 15, 2009


The Manhattan makes a comeback…

Via blog: The Moment

July 13, 2009, 12:17 PM
Rye Observations | The Best Outer-Borough Manhattans

Like ballet or the limerick, the formal limitations of a Manhattan are such that the correct proportions, the quality of ingredients and an expert preparation have little authorial discretion behind which to hide. Whiskey (rye or bourbon), vermouth (dry or sweet), bitters and a cherry. It’s a haiku of a cocktail. This makes drinking a Manhattan either a tremendous or a traumatic experience.

Not so long ago, Manhattans were found mostly in Manhattan. But a recent crop of openings in the outer boroughs offer Brooklynites and Queensians top-shelf Manhattans closer to home. Rye in Williamsburg, Dutch Kills in Long Island City (it’s in Queens!) and Prime Meats in Carroll Gardens constitute an outer-borough Manhattan renaissance. At each of these bars, the Manhattans rival anything you might order for a few too many dollars more at, say, the King Cole Bar.

Prime Meats is the latest outpost in Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo’s slow but inevitable takeover of Carroll Gardens. (The bar is just a few doors down from Frankies 457 and a short stroll away from Café Pedlar, their joint venture with the Stumptown coffee impresario Duane Sorenson.) The space is classic Frankies — most material is salvaged, an old mirror here, wood from Benton College in Millbrook, N.Y., there — while the cocktail menu is just classic-classic. Behind the 20-foot mahogany bar (reportedly, it used to belong to another Frank: Sinatra) are Travis Kauffman and Damon Boelte. Their Manhattan hits all the right notes. Kauffman makes the drink with Punt E Mes, an Italian vermouth, housemade Buddha’s-hand bitters and 100-proof Rittenhouse Rye. It will make you forget whatever you just endured on the F train.

Farther north, Williamsburg’s burgeoning cocktail scene rests firmly on the slight shoulders of Jeffrey Jorgen Hansen, a petite, blond-haired man with thick glasses and a wry sense of humor. Hansen designed the cocktail menu at Bar Delmano, the first cocktail den to cater to disaffected hipster youth on their own turf when it opened in January 2008. Now young Hansen has moved to Rye, another old-timey place a subway stop deeper in, where he pours his Manhattans. “I like mine not to be too sweet,” he says. So he uses Dolin dry vermouth, Rittenhouse Rye and Angostura bitters. To offset the sweetness of the brandy-soaked cherry, Hansen limns the rim with a twist of lemon for the bittersweet aromatics. Though the Times’s Frank Bruni was correct in pondering whether the place is “a drinkers’ refuge with ambitious food or a proper restaurant with a particular vanity about its cocktails,” everything in liquid form here excels, and nothing more so than the Manhattan.

Heading ever northerly, we find the new/old home of Sasha Petraske, the man behind the Lower East Side cocktail den Milk and Honey. Called Dutch Kills (after the old name for Long Island City), Petraske’s hutch is at least four times the size of his Manhattan holes-in-the-wall, Little Branch and Milk and Honey. The cocktails, some advertised on chalkboards over the bar and others not, carry the quality of Milk and Honey over the river but leave the prices behind. A Manhattan, perfectly made, is only $9, practically a giveaway a few miles west.

Sometimes it takes a trip away from the island to truly discover what a Manhattan means.

Dutch Kills, 27-24 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, Queens; (718) 383-2724
Prime Meats, 465 Court Street, Brooklyn; (718) 254-0327
Rye, 247 South First Street, Brooklyn; (718) 218-8047

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