Absence Makes the Pickle Grow Stronger

Renee, the New Look of Dior, Place de la Concorde, Paris, 1947; © Richard Avedon, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

Like Dior in the late 40’s, we’re trying out a new look here at I Make Pickles.  I figured since we’ve been so quiet, we needed to return with a bang–or at least a bit of a twirl.  The silence has not been for lack of pickling and preserving, but rather due to a major move, among other such life-changing experiences.  When last we met my engagement was still relatively hot off the presses.  Since then, we’ve also purchased a house, which in case you haven’t heard, can be a lot of work.  I’m realizing that on some level it never ends.  Not that I mind, really.  I still pinch myself as I walk through our home.  It’s just, to say the least, been an adjustment.

Now as many of you know, I’m no stranger to cocktail hour, my cocktail of choice usually either a Martini or Manhattan (you can be sure that I never missed a cocktail hour while in escrow).  Over the years, I’ve worked on perfecting my Manhattan recipe–aka The Matty-hattan–at home and as many a dinner guest will attest, I’m darn near close.  First what’s key is Carpano Antica Formula, an aged sweet vermouth so delicious you can even drink it on its own.  Next you want to use a nice rye, like Sazerac, or High West.  If you decide to go with bourbon–no reason why not–I suggest Bulleit, Maker’s Mark or Buffalo Trace.  Another critical ingredient is the bitters.  Oh, who am I kidding, each ingredient is critical.  Fee Brothers has a spicy “old fashion” variety that I prefer.  Add these ingredients to a shaker full of ice and stir.  Some say shaking will cloud up your cocktail so why take the chance?  No one likes a murky Manhattan.  Strain into a chilled martini glass and enjoy.

You’re probably wondering, aren’t you missing a garnish?  I’m glad you asked.  This needed its own paragraph.  Of course it’s the Maraschino cherry but I would do everything in my power to avoid using the super-sweet bright red monsters you find in the ice cream sundae section.  Luxardo makes a fabulous gourmet Maraschino cherry that’s rich and dark and the perfect addition to your libation.  But even better is a homemade variety I tried courtesy of Kara Newman that’s incredibly simple.  As she states, and I agree, “The only hard part is waiting out the full two-week maceration period.”  All you need is about a pound or so of cherries–I’ve used Rainier or Bing, basically whatever I find at the farmer’s market.  But the best would be to seek out sour cherries, which are harder to find but well worth it.  I would check out some Middle Eastern markets or ask the farmers if they have them.  The other ingredient is Luxardo Maraschino liqueur.  Wash the cherries and pack them into a pickling jar–I use the wide-mouth quart size which should hold all but the few you eat during the process.  Pour the liqueur to cover and seal them up.  Keep the jar refrigerated for two weeks and give them a light whirl every couple of days to ensure proper coverage.  We’ve found in our house they just keep getting better and better and are at their peak somewhere in the three to four week range.

So back to your shaker of Matty-hattan… Many recipes will have you measuring out maybe two ounces whiskey to a half to one ounce of vermouth and adding a dash or two of bitters.  Try it out and keep tasting to see what your preference is, eventually you’ll get to a point when you can just eyeball it, like I do.  Or maybe that’s just my taste.  A little trick that adds an extra bit of beauty to your beverage is stirring with the spoon you used to pluck your Maraschino cherry.  This is especially good with the syrup from the Luxardo gourmet variety, but just as pleasurable with your own. Remember to enjoy responsibly, and by responsibly I mean with good friends, preferably sitting in mid-century modern furniture.

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