Interlude: The Emotional Impact of a Manhattan
Editor’s Note: I meant for my next post to be a wrap-up of my time at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic with a recap of the British Invasion event at Eleven Madison Park. I promise – that’ll come next. First, I wanted to share this long-overdue story, as it was relayed to me by my good friend Michael this past holiday season. Michael and I worked together years ago, and have stayed in touch via Facebook, talking mostly about food, drink and guitars (mutual interests, all). I found Mike’s story to be a very touching tribute, and a commentary on the emotional energy that can be unleashed by taking a drink in your hand and raising it to one we love, so I wanted to share it with all of you.
As told to me via e-mail by Michael Feuda, December 24, 2010:
Growing up, I have vivid memories of my Dad and Uncle Al (twin brothers) mixing up Manhattans every Thanksgiving and Christmas. My sister and I were always curiously drawn to watching them, mainly because of the little jar of maraschino cherries. I remember my Uncle poking one with the little plastic buccaneer’s sword, and handing it to me, only to roll in laughter as my sister or I tried it; watching our faces as the bourbon-soaked cherry burned going down our throats. I also remember thinking to myself, “How could anyone ever drink that? It tastes horrible.”
I lost my Dad 15 years ago, but my Uncle Al kept the tradition going, making the Manhattans at all the family functions. He also used to berate me every time he would come over, as I never had the right stuff in my house to mix one up. He’d have to settle for a glass of wine, or a gin and tonic, or even a vodka and cranberry. Uncle Al often tells me how he makes one or two Manhattans a night, watches TV, and slowly falls asleep on his couch watching TV. His nightly ritual.
Somewhere in the last year or so, my Irish neighbor convinces me to enjoy some Jameson’s and Tullamore Dew while we play guitar together. And then, a colleague at work insists I try some good bourbon…and SIP IT… Wow… enlightening. I guess I’m not too old to learn, huh?
Back in March this year, we unexpectedly lost Uncle Al. You probably wouldn’t see my silly food and cooking pictures on Facebook if it wasn’t for him. He took me to see Martin Yan in 1980 at the Macy’s in the Echelon Mall. I’ve been fascinated by cooking ever since. He cooked Osso Bucco for me once, the first time I ever had it…perfection. And I make his Cream Of Broccoli soup at least a few times every winter, always to rave reviews from my friends. Cleaning out his kitchen this year was one of most painful things I’ve ever had to do in my life.
So…here comes the twist. Remember Dave A. from work? He and I are good friends these days. The connection started with guitars many years ago. We email each other all the time about guitar stuff…it’s fun. Turns out, we have lots of other similar interests. It turns out, Dave is also a connoisseur of bourbon. Earlier this year, he made a pilgrimage to Kentucky and Tennessee, and brought me back a bottle of Maker’s Mark 46. It’s like butter.
Last month, I go to Dave’s house one evening to play some guitar. Right after I get there, he says, “I want to make you a drink, a Manhattan.” I tell him “Dave, I’m not going to like it..I just know it.” He says, “No, you’ll like it.” I sipped cautiously, and sipped some more. We drank two each, and before you know it, nearly emptied a bottle of bourbon.
I just am so thankful for the circle of friends I have met in this life. And how the pain of losing my cherished Uncle this year turns into me truly enjoying a drink – one I feared in my childhood – that reminds me of him. Oh yeah… I ate the cherry… and it tasted good.
I will be down at Dave’s next Thursday for another guitar night. He tells me another Manhattan will be waiting for me. I’ll toast to Uncle Al.