Why the Perfect Manhattan Is, Well, Perfect


Sick of your usual call drink? Try something new. In this series, we’re asking the city’s bartenders to name their current drinks of choice. Check out our Good Call archives for another round.

Today’s call comes by way of Keith Nelson, beverage director of several Manhattan restaurants, including the Arlington Club (1032 Lexington Avenue, 249-5700), LAVO (39 East 58th Street, 212-750-5588), and TAO (42 East 58th Street, 212-888-2288).

What’s your call drink?

Perfect Manhattan on the rocks, with an orange twist.

What is it about this drink that you like so much?

It’s masculine, very flavorful, and strong but not too harsh.

Has it always been your favorite? How long did it take you to find it? What was that process like?

No, I used to drink Absolut Mandrin and tonic, but it’s very simple, and as my tastes developed, they got more complex. It took me five years to find it — a lot of trial and error. There was a year that I drank only gin, then I switched to vodka, then bourbon. The vermouth is spiced, so it makes the drink less angular and easier to drink.

Could you name a few places around town that make your favorite drink?

Henry’s, on the Upper West Side, makes it really well. Landmarc in Time Warner Center does, too. And they make a great one at Arlington Club; I should know.

What’s the recipe, for those who want to make it at home?

It’s an ounce and a half of Michter’s rye, half an ounce of Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, half an ounce of Dolin dry vermouth, and a dash of Fee old-fashion bitters, stirred together and served on the rocks with an orange peel twist, squeezed over the top so the orange oils go over the top. Always with Italian sweet vermouth and French dry vermouth.

What’s your second favorite drink? Recipe?

Peppermint tea. Mint leaves and water. It’s very restorative.