At Southwark the classic cocktail is served the old-fashioned way.
When was the last time you went to a bar and as far as the eye could see, people were drinking Man-hattans? And not just Manhattans, but Manhattans made the old-fashioned way, with rye whiskey and a plump maraschino cherry plunked down in the center? And not just people, but people who were significantly less than 80 years old?
It's a beautiful thing, one that just about brought a tear to my eye when I observed this phenomenon at the bar at Southwark. The rush of emotion could also have come from the rye. It's not often I wander into the land of brown liquors, having wrestled with them and lost as an underage drinker, but maybe it's time for a truce.
I can't think of a better reason than the sheer pleasure of hanging out at Kip Waide's handsome mahogany bar-a spare but not barren environment that's about as inviting as a bar can be. The bartenders wear crisp white shirts and snappy ties. They chill every martini glass before they pour any booze in it. And they've mastered their trade to the point where they can conduct simultaneous conversations, mix simultaneous drinks and never mess up either. They also tell a wicked nun joke.
Most places today make their Manhattans with bourbon-just like ordering a martini will usually get you a chilled glass of vodka. It wasn't always this way. A martini used to mean gin and vermouth and a Manhattan was made with rye, sweet vermouth and a dash of Angostura bitters. This is the "loving recipe," as Waide calls it, that he follows, using Old Overholt Kentucky rye. If you're a whiskey aficionado, know that Waide carries a slew of Kentucky ryes, including Michter's, aged 10 years, and a rare 13-year-old Hirsch rye.
I tried the house Manhattan and was surprised by how long it took to drink. In the time it took me to sip one, I could've easily lapped myself in vodka. It's a more complex cocktail, one that invites you to savor its dimensions and admire its pretty red hue. I probably should've just stuck with one, but when Waide offered to make me a version with Michter's, I said what I always say when offered seconds of something delicious: yes.
Soon I was wrapped in a warm blanket of booze fuzz, overflowing with love for the three guys at the end of the bar who were drinking Manhattans, the man who switched over from drinking beer to a Manhattan and the woman to my left, who'd been nursing her Man-hattan. Oh, and for my boyfriend, who not only drank a Manhattan, but who patiently listened to me caterwaul a Manhattan-fueled version of "Kokomo," the worst song in the world, all the way home.
701 S. Fourth St. 215.238.1888
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PW's Taste of Philly 2014