A perfect Southern Comfort Manhattan on the rocks with a twist…and how not to make one.

And other misadventures on one side of the bar or another:

The large print refers to the cocktail that I indulge in when out to dinner, usually with my daughter (29+) on our once a month get-together. The smaller print refers to my 20 years tending bar, as well as the 40 years, on and off, haven’t been a regular at any bar since my 20’s, time well spent playing on softball teams that were usually sponsored by bars or taverns or…you get the idea. But that’s another story for another time, at least as much as I can recall, it’s been awhile.

As alluded to in the previous paragraph, I’ve spent considerable time on one side of the bar or another. Along the way I’ve favored several different cocktails, a C.C. Horse’s neck (whiskey and ginger ale with a twist. Whiskey makes you frisky, rum makes you dumb, gin makes you sin! Which was at least partially true at the time, as I was dating a woman who drank gin and although in my early 20’s, I didn’t need whiskey to make me frisky, gin definitely made her sin 😉 ) A regular Horse’s neck is just a ginger ale with a twist, the C.C. stands for Canadian Club Whiskey. As you can see it’s pretty easy to make, but not when one throw’s in the Horse’s neck part. I had to look it up in my trusty “Mr. Boston’s Guide for Bartenders” after I heard a character in a Humphrey Bogart movie order one. Of course me being me, I couldn’t just order a C.C. and ginger with a twist, I had to throw in the Horse’s neck part, usually with looks from veteran bartenders that you might expect to a snot nose 20 year old.

By my mid 20’s I had moved on to gin and tonics, especially Boodles gin “oodles and oodles of Boodles and noodles” is what a friend of mine and I would mumble after downing a quart between us…on more than one occasion. Not sure if gin made me sin but it certainly made me laugh, which is what I may have been doing when I met my future partner-in-this-thing-called-life, although she claimed it was the previous week when I prevented the drunken x-wife of her soon to be x-boyfriend from throwing a table at her. I recalled the incident in the bar that was my (and soon to be our) unofficial headquarters but it was definitely a chair, not a table, the a fore-mentioned drunk x-wife was way too wobbly to pick-up a table, she could barely manage the chair she was pulling back to throw when I took it away from her. Man of the hour, although it was more self-policing the bar that sponsored one of the teams I played for. Besides, life isn’t an old west movie, the chairs aren’t made of balsa wood and could inflict serious damage. Unacceptable behavior, especially in what I considered My Bar !!

Fast forward to the next week, when after playing a double header, I was enjoying the fruits of my labor (free beer) at My Bar/head quarters along with a couple of teammates, when I felt a hand on my nylon uniform pant clad butt. I turned to see the vaguely familiar face of an attractive young lady, who, while keeping her hand on my butt, said “thanks for last week.” To which I replied “pardon?” “You kept that crazy, drunk woman from hitting me with a table, don’t you remember?” “I remember taking a chair away from a drunk, there was no table involved, other than the one you were sitting at.” We locked eyes for a moment, before she said “Thanks anyway.” And tuned to go. “May I ask your name?” It was the only thing I could think of to make her stay. “You may.” “Okay, what’s your name?” “Carol.” Which is how I was introduced to the woman I would marry three years later.

Carol drank vodka (nothing rhymes with vodka, don’t even try) vodka and 7, with lime, White Russians, it didn’t really matter, as long as there was vodka in it she was happy. This love of vodka would cause difficulties toward the end of our marriage, difficulties such as our divorce but that’s another story.

Back to the journey from beer and shots to the above mentioned per/so-co/man/rx/tw (which is how one would write it up while cocktailing in the days before…cringe…touch screens ordering systems) . Speaking of perfect Manhattans, the perfect part means that instead of just sweet vermouth, a bartender uses both sweet and dry vermouth when making the cocktail. Usually a so-co/man/rx/tw would get only dry vermouth because the Southern Comfort is pretty sweet on it’s own, but I like both, one to offset the other and the lemon twist to take the edge off. Side bar: one should never have to ask for a lemon twist, because there is only lemon twists in the world of real bartending. Limes are either wedges of wheels, no one makes lime twists and don’t even get me started on oranges !!

When yet another injury to my left foot ended my ballplaying “career” I laid off beer and shots (for the most part) and settled on G & T, rx/lime for a summer drink, but hadn’t decided on a winter drink, hadn’t tried Southern Comfort since I barfed up quite a bit of it at a stag party in my early 20’s. I tried C.C. Manhattans, perfect C.C. Manhattans, even a Rob Roy (a Manhattan made with Scotch) didn’t care for any of them. Then one night at our usual hangout, a new tender of the bar suggested that I try a per/so-co/man/rx/tw and I loved it, the perfect (no pun intended) sipping drink, add rx/side and it lasts for nearly an hour, just long enough to get through the app before switching to wine when the entre arrives.

How to make a per/so-co/man/rx/tw properly is pretty simple: start with a 6 oz rocks glass, fill with ice, pour 2 oz so-co, 3/4 oz of sweet vermouth, 3/4 oz of dry vermouth, take a lemon twist, twist it and rub along the rim of the glass, stick in a stirrer and serve. No need for shakers or bitters (some recipes call for bitters, I prefer to forgo this ingredient)

Speaking of Bitters, I will end this post with a story I heard many years ago in regards to the sale of Bitters: At the monthly meeting of sales people, managers, V.P.s and the like, the main topic of this particular meeting was…how to increase the sale of Bitters. (if you don’t know what Bitters is, it is a collections if ingredients including alcohol, that is used in different drink recipes. It comes in a bottle with a small hole in the plastic stopper at the end to shake the contents into the drink) As several ideas were shared amongst the attendees of the meeting, one of the new sales people raised her hand and said, “why don’t we make the hole bigger?” Everyone laughed, then silence filled the room, broken when the senior V.P. repeated…”make the hole bigger?” Sales increased by 25% the first year.

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