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Thanksgiving recap, go-to Manhattan recipe

Here’s a story about growing up:

1. Girl goes to college.

2. Girl meets boy.

3. Girl marries boy.

4. Wife and husband host their first Thanksgiving, with lovely other girl and boy guests.

5. Wife and husband eat Thanksgiving leftovers and drink Manhattans.

6. Wife and husband live happily ever after. Until the leftovers run out and they realize they can’t drink Manhattans every day.


Here’s a story about family:

1. Girl meets boy.

2. Girl and boy accidentally stumble upon a unique Manhattan recipe.

3. Girl and boy have children, and those children have children. (Girl and boy are now “grandma and grandpa.”) As the children and their children age, they all come to love Grandma and Grandpa’s unique Manhattan recipe (henceforth “Grandpa Ed’s Manhattan”).

4. One of those grandchildren (“boy”) goes to college, meets girl (see #2, first story), gets married (see #3, first story).

5. Husband and wife host their first Thanksgiving, sadly without grandpa nor the rest of that family.

6. Husband and wife eat Thanksgiving leftovers and drink Manhattans, and think of Grandpa and Grandma and the rest of the family.

7. Husband and wife live happily ever after, until the leftovers run out and etc. etc. you get it.


Two things I want to talk about, as if it weren’t obvious: Thankgiving (namely the food), and Manhattans.

First things first.  Thanksgiving was … fantastic. It was the first time we had Thanksgiving at home, and our dear friends Nick and Hayden joined us for an entire day of relaxing, cooking, eating, drinking, wandering around the campuses, and some particularly inspired card games. We expected a frantic, stressful food preparation process – aren’t we all trained in utero that hosting Thanksgiving is supposed to be hectic and daunting and labor-intensive? – but in reality everything was quite relaxed.

For instance: did you know that a turkey does not need to roast from here until eternity, like one might be lead to believe? 2.5 hours max for a 14 lb. bird (yes, FOURTEEN pounds of turkey for four people …).

Also: a delicious, soft, sweet cranberry sauce is one of the easiest things to make IN THE WORLD.  Why the canned stuff? Someone who likes it, please tell me what the deal is here.

As long as I’m colon-ing along, here’s something sad: I took no pictures of Thanksgiving dinner. I was too excited about eating and you couldn’t have paid me to delay us and our guests from digging in. You can get a pretty good idea from the photo of our leftovers, above, but in general I’ll say this – I am apparently not a fan of experimentation on Thanksgiving. Sure, let’s try a different turkey brining technique. But when it comes to the basic menu, I want the staples. Stuffing, gravy, rolls, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie.

In that case, this meant:

  • Turkey – dry-brined for 72 hours and filled with herbs, garlic, and lemons, roasted for about 2.5 hours and basted throughout the process
  • Stuffing – classic bread stuffing with onion, celery, thyme, and sage, plus sauteed mushrooms. Made with homemade Tartine bread.
  • Cranberry sauce – fresh cranberries sauteed until burst and thickened, with orange juice, orange zest, cinnamon, rum, and brown sugar
  • Cloverleaf dinner rolls – Grand Central Bakery recipe (fantastic – crispy/chewy on the outside, soft/chewy on the inside)
  • Gravy – made with wine, turkey neck, drippings, flour, and herbs
  • Mashed potatoes – brought by guests (and delicious)
  • Salad – brought by guests (also delicious)
  • Pumpkin pie – Grand Central Bakery crust recipe, Tartine filling recipe, with cinnamon whipped cream
  • Beverages: bourbon with spiced simple syrup before dinner, a Cote du Rhone and then a Wildhurst Syrah with dinner, and a King Estate Vin Glace dessert wine with pie
If you want to know more about any of these items, let me know and I’ll happily provide details.

But for now let’s keep rolling along. Manhattans.

Here’s something fantastic: On the North Frisian island of Föhr, the Manhattan is the most common drink. It’s on the menu of every restaurant and cafe, and people drink it on a daily basis. These people know what they’re doing.

Until I’m able to move there (and after I figure out where, exactly, it is), I will just make my Manhattans at home.

We drink a Manhattan inadvertently invented by Brett’s grandmother and grandfather, as they tried to recreate one they had in a bar. They accidentally brought home dry vermouth instead of sweet, then realizing just sweet vermouth made it a little too sugary they started making them with half and half. This actually has a name – it’s a “perfect Manhattan,” but they never knew that. All they knew was that they created a delicious cocktail, smokey and caramely from the bourbon with both the bitter and sweet acidic notes of the two types of vermouth.


We make Manhattans fairly regularly, and have discovered that both maraschino cherries (preferably a kind without high fructose corn syrup) and the sour Morelo jarred cherries from Trader Joe’s make great options for a Manhattan. We like to add a spoonful or so of the juice along with a cherry or two in the bottom of the glass, which is the traditional garnish.  The maraschinos provide a creamier sweetness, while the Morelos obviously add a bit of a sour note. Cherry and bourbon is a perfect match, and Manhattans are a great, fairly easy cocktail to make year round. We always make sure we have the ingredients in the house. Maker’s Mark is our preferred cocktail bourbon, generally, but Knob Creek and others sometimes find their way onto our bar.


Grandpa Ed’s Manhattan (a Perfect Manhattan)

Makes 1, but easily scalable

  • 1.5 (3 Tablespoons) ounces bourbon or rye
  • 0.25 ounces (about 1.5 tsp.) sweet vermouth
  • 0.25 ounces (about 1.5 tsp.) dry vermouth
  •  2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • A jarred cherry (Maraschino, sour Morelo, etc. – sweeter cherries will add more sweetness, obviously, and sour ones more sourness) plus a spoonful of liquid from the jar
  • Ice

– Mix the first four ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass and add the cherry and cherry liquid. Enjoy!

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4 Comments Post a comment
  1. The spoonful of the cherry liquid is also a key part of the Grandpa Recipe, so we can’t take credit for that. It was part of getting just the right level of sweetness, but also really changes the cocktail by taking the cherry from a weird garnish to a bigger part of the flavor.

    December 3, 2011

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