The end of July is always a busy time in my business, and often I don’t slow down enough to celebrate. This year I made time for a casual party with a few friends, cocktails, and croquet. It might be my most laid-back party ever. We didn’t dress up, and the house wasn’t spotless. We grilled a few sausages, worked on perfecting our Manhattan recipe, and set up croquet in the front yard. I have no idea what the neighbors thought, and we had to navigate a few trees and bushes, but we had a splendid time.
Even the cake was a total cheat – we picked up my favorite lemon bar cake from the grocery store, and I topped it with berries and a raspberry glaze. Seriously easy, but it was exactly what I was craving. I tried to get a little fancy with some extra whipped cream, but realized that was going to be a mess and backed off. Simple is good.
This is part of my ongoing quest to let go and not stress about birthdays and holidays and big events. For years I made a big production of things and exhausted myself. Then I went cold turkey and didn’t do anything for a while. Now I’m trying to find the right balance of enjoyment, beauty, and simplicity that makes me excited to entertain again. My birthday party was relaxed and fun and I didn’t feel like I needed to impress anyone, including myself. I couldn’t have asked for anything more perfect.
A Classic Manhattan
You can use your choice of whiskey in this recipe, but I prefer the spiciness of rye. Also make sure to use a really good cocktail cherry. We’ve been using these ones* from the Jack Rudy Cocktail Company, and they’re amazing.
2 oz rye, bourbon, or whiskey
1 oz sweet vermouth
2-3 dashes Angostura bitters*
Orange peel, for garnish
Cocktail cherry*, for garnish
Place a generous amount of ice in a stirring glass, and add the rye, vermouth, and bitters. Stir about 30 seconds, until well chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a twist of orange peel and a cocktail cherry.
Variations: You can also use Scotch (for a Rob Roy) or brandy (for a Metropolitan).