If you know me at all, you know my favorite cocktails are Manhattans and variations thereupon.
Generally, the Manhattan is the first drink I ask for from a bartender I don’t know. If they can manage to get something tasty in a glass involving bitters, whiskey, and a decent portion of fresh sweet vermouth I feel like maybe I can trust their judgement.
I also take great pride in the beautiful, clear, cold Manhattans I make for customers. I think they are as good a Manhattan as you will get, anywhere in the world.
I even bring my personal Yarai mixing glasses to work and chill them in our glass freezers, for a little extra silkiness in stirred drinks like Manhattans and Martinis.
I was working the service well the other night and an order came back, “2 House Manhattan, Well Shaken”.
I flagged down the server and asked, “Really? Are you sure they don’t mean well stirred?” She said, “No, they said they wanted them Well Shaken.”
OK then. I loaded the Manhattans up in two of my tins and shook the living hell out of them.
Poured the frothy, cloudy, monstrosities into cocktail glasses, garnished them with a lemon twist, and sent them out.
About a half an hour later, another ticket came back, “2 House Manhattans, Well Shaken”.
Again loaded up two of my tins and shook the living hell out of them.
I smiled and mentioned to the server, “You know, every time I do this, I die a little inside.” She laughed, nervously, unclear if I was joking.
A half an hour later, another ticket came back, “2 House Manhattans, Well Shaken”.
“I’m just trying to keep you in shape,” the server remarked. I said, “Just as long as it is two at a time, I do need to practice shaking two drinks at once.”
I know some bartenders would have gotten all upset about making shaken Manhattans, maybe refused to do it, or tried to talk the customers out of it. Unfortunately, it was for a table in the dining room, so I had no chance to interact with them. But even if it was at the bar, look, we sold three rounds of House Manhattans to paying, happy customers. If they’d been at the bar and I tried to get all up in their faces about shaken Manhattans not being “proper”, they might have ordered one drink and walked out.
If you first earn the customers trust, you have a chance of changing their mind as the evening progresses. In my experience, if you first force your ideas onto them, they will have one drink, pretend to like it, pay, and leave.
I know some bars and tenders have the luxury of choosing who they want to serve. They have lines of eager cocktail enthusiasts and trendy scenesters waiting behind a velvet rope, hanging on their every pronouncement and genius cocktail.
Lucky for them, I guess.
For me, I work in a restaurant, where just about anyone can get a reservation, walk in, and order a drink. We don’t check your cocktailian references before serving you.