There are days that I wake up thinking about the best burger and the best Manhattan cocktail that I have ever had.
They are served at Goose & Gander, in St. Helena, and often, as I open my eyes, I think: “This is going to be a G&G Manhattan & Burger Day.” In short, I am addicted.
To others like me, who are co-dependent on this incomparable, perfect pairing, Goose & Gander is now the large X on our local gastronomic map. X marks the spot for Sublime Pleasure.
I asked one of America’s top sommeliers to join me at G&G earlier this month to experience this formidable food/cocktail pairing and he pronounced the Manhattan, which bartender Scott Beattie has perfected, “the best Manhattan I’ve ever had.”
And that’s saying something, because this sommelier lives and works, in Manhattan, NY, where they know something about making delicious cocktails. Especially the city’s namesake drink.
How much do I love the Manhattan and Burger at G&G? Consider this my 1138-word love poem for the perfect Manhattan and perfect succulent, juicy, addictive burger served here.
First, We Take Manhattan
(With thanks to Canadian poet and singer, Leonard Cohen, who wrote and composed “First We Take Manhattan. His lyrics: “First we take Manhattan... then we take Berlin...”)
Supposedly, the success of the banquet made the drink fashionable, prompting people to request the drink by referring to the name of the club where it originated—"the Manhattan cocktail."
However, if truth be known, Winston’s mother, Lady Randolph Churchill, was in France at the time, so the story is fictive.
Since inception, wherever and when ever that was, the Manhattan has always been a mix of American whiskey, Italian vermouth and Angostura bitters.
“When my co-bartender Michael Pazdan and I were asked to set up the bar at Goose & Gander, we assembled 300 different whiskies and spirits to select the best flavor combinations,” recalls Scott Beattie.
“To make the best tasting Manhattan, we opted for a combination of equal parts bourbon and rye. It makes a more compelling drink.”
Beam me aboard, Scottie!
Scott’s personal choices were for Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon and Templeton Rye, which together produce warm, harmonious, tones; cut them with Carpano Antica, an Italian vermouth, add splashes of three different bitters, and you have the makings of a Perfect Manhattan.
Then Scott adds unique touches to amplify pleasure:
Instead of pouring the stirred (never shaken), ingredients over small ice cubes, Scott opts to pour them over ONE large cube that’s about the size of a major league baseball. Or Muhammad Ali’s fist.
“We import our ice from San Francisco where we have a specialty firm make 25-pound blocks for us of oxygen-removed, totally clear ice,” says Scott. We saw it down to manageable size with a chain saw and then use a serrated knife to chip it into individual cubes.”
“This is how they chilled cocktails when they were first invented,” Scott points out, “so our practice pays homage to the drink’s origin.”
Besides, Scott says that one large cube does a better job of chilling the drink and doesn’t dilute the whiskies, as smaller cubes might do.
Another secret to the G&G Manhattan is that it is made with not one, but splashes of THREE different bitters. These are Angostura Aromatic Bitters, Jerry Thomas’ The Bitter Truth Bitters, and Fee Brothers Old-Fashioned Aromatic Bitters.
Bartenders, to whom napaman has spoken about Manhattan cocktails, generally choose two commercially available liqueur-infused cherries for garnish.
Some barmen like Amarena Fabbri wild cherries from Italy; others, like Scott, prefer Kirsch-soaked Morello cherries, produced in France under the Griottines label. Both products are available on amazon.com.
And finally, for home mixologists, there is this sensational tip:
COMBINE ALL THE INGREDIENTS IN A SEALABLE JAR DAYS, EVEN WEEKS, AHEAD OF SERVING. STORE AT ROOM TEMPERATURE, OR IN THE FRIDGE, AND POUR THE MIXTURE OVER A LARGE SINGLE ICE CUBE IN A WIDE, OLD-FASHIONED, WHISKEY GLASS WHEN DESIRED.
“All the ingredients in a Manhattan are high in alcohol,” says Scott. “We mix them together in their proper ratios and store the mixture in a container for later use – we never have time to make individual Manhattans from scratch at the bar.”
So the barman makes up quarts, or gallons, of his cocktail mix ahead of time, and pours out drinks as they are ordered.
Mixologists at home can do the same.
How to Make the Perfect Manhattan
¾ oz Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon (or bourbon of your choice)
¾ oz Templeton Rye (or any rye of your choice)
¾ oz Carpano Antica Sweet Italian Vermouth
Splash each of Angostura Aromatic Bitters and Jerry Thomas’ The Bitter Truth Bitters and ½ splash of Fee Brothers Old-Fashioned Aromatic Bitters
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, mix together all ingredients.
Using a metal bartender’s spoon, stir well. Do not shake.
Pour over one large ice cube in a wide-mouthed, old-fashioned whiskey glass. Garnish with several Amarena wild cherries, or Griottines Kirsch-macerated, Morello cherries.
AND NOW, FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT:
THE BEST BURGER TO ACCOMPANY THE BEST MANHATTAN
Why stop at perfection from the bar?
The kitchen at G&G is equally successful in the domain of Perfection. Namely, their burgers.
Here’s what makes this burger so dramatically better than any other burger I have tasted in Napa Valley:
They ask their meat purveyor to blend ground chuck that has been procured from three different ranches.
The G&G burger has a sheen, a juicy ooziness, that first affects the eye – and afterward the palate -- the same way a sensual Renoir, or Cezanne, painting causes wonderment, sometimes leading to Stendhal’s Syndrome, a condition experienced when art (or hamburgers!) cause you to faint from the overwhelming pleasure of the experience.
Oh, and the burger’s taste? Magnificent. Primal. Ethereal. Addictive.
Each 9.5-ounce burger is grilled over a combination of hardwoods and served on a ciabatta bun created exclusively for G&G by Model Bakery, in St. Helena.
The burger is topped with Romaine leaves, cheese, bacon, bone marrow (optional) and the bun is lathered with a tasty, textured, remoulade sauce.
The burger is accompanied by a generous serving of French fries twice-fried in duck fat.
If you can find a better burger in Napa Valley – or a better Manhattan – napaman wants to hear about it.
Until we have the names of other Bar n’ Burger candidates to share with readers of this column, head to Goose & Gander for your own OMG! Manhattan & Burger moment.
Goose & Gander, 1245 Spring St., St. Helena. 707-967-8779.