French Manhattan

Someone told me that “cocktails” is one of the most used search terms right now on the internet. Sometimes I feel like I’m in the right place at the right time. Other times, I feel as if things might go the other way. Right now, I feel a little bit of both. When my planned book tour was nearing the start date, the news cycle shifted and when it looked as if it didn’t seem like the right time to get on a lot of airplanes and invite people to join me at large gatherings to share food and drink, I hit the pause button.

So here I am, and there you are. Thankfully the internet can keep us connected. I don’t know if people are searching for Chocolate Chip Kitchen Sink Cookies, but I’ve got tons of cookie dough on hand from developing and retesting the recipe five times in the last ten days. In nineteen years of baking between two countries, I’ve never had any issues with French butter versus butter elsewhere, but that seemed to be the culprit.

Fortunately, liquor is a different story and what we get here is what you get everywhere else. But unlike all the butter, oats, chocolate, and eggs I used working on that recipe to get it right so it worked for everyone, after writing Drinking French, I’ve still got plenty of alcohol on hand, so there’s zero possibility of running out.

Since my book tour got clipped, I was thinking it’d be fun to set up a virtual drink somewhere, perhaps on Instagram Live, or another platform. The main obstacle is the time difference: When it’s apéro hour in France, it’s morning on the West Coast of the U.S. and late night in the other direction, in Asia and Australia. When I figure that out*, here’s a cocktail from Drinking French I think you’ll all enjoy.

I tend to like simple cocktails and am a big fan of Manhattans. You can keep all those drinks with seventeen ingredients that might include a 1/4 barspoon of black sesame tincture, or rinsing the glass with distilled linden flower water – actually, I don’t mind those drinks, but I find they’re more appropriate to be served at a bar than made at home. I’m in favor of drinks anyone can make with a minimum of fuss and a minimum of ingredients.

Although the French are the largest consumers of whiskey in the world, per capita, France is better known for its cognac, even though whiskey (or whisky) production has ramped up in recent years. Cognac makes a smoother Manhattan-style cocktail, which feels a little more sophisticated to me than it’s whiskey-rich cousin from America. Don’t get me wrong, a bourbon- or rye-based Manhattan is an outstanding drink, but the French aren’t fond of bourbon (most find it too sweet) and rye whiskey is still something you need to track down, and I’ve gotten blank stares at liquor stores when I’ve asked for it. But cognac is partout (everywhere).

In this drink, orange liqueur backs up the cognac with the ruby, juiciness of aromatic sweet vermouth. Grand Marnier, Combier, and Cointreau are possible options in the orange liqueur department, or Ferrand Curaçao Triple Sec, made from an old-fashioned recipe using green-skinned Lahara oranges and toasted sugar before aging the distillate with cognac in barrels. Grand Marnier is also made with cognac and sour oranges while Cointreau is clear, and made both with sweet and sour oranges. You can use whatever you prefer, and whatever fits your budget. (Not to knock inexpensive booze, since some are pretty good, but most cheap triple secs and Curaçaos aren’t, so I avoid those. Any of the aforementioned orange liqueurs are bottles where your money is well-spent.)

As for sweet vermouth, to keep it French, Dolin is a well-known vermouth from Chambéry, which was once part of Italy and isn’t far from Torino, where the founder learned to make vermouth. (You can read a story in my book about visiting the Dolin distillery in the French alps on pages 182-182 of the book.) To shake things up a little, sweet vermouth can be replaced by another apéritif rouge like Byrrh or Cap Corse, two quinine-based French aromatized apéritifs that are lovely served on their own, over ice with a twist. So if you get a bottle, the rest will be put to good use.

But no need to get mired in tracking down elusive bottles. Go to a good liquor store (or even a decent one) and you can always find something drinkable. In the States, you can also find half-bottles of liquors, vermouths, and apéritifs, so you don’t have to make such a big commitment. However, once you taste this French Manhattan, I think you’ll be making these cocktails more than you think. And who knows? Maybe someday, we’ll have one together.

[*Speaking of which, I’m going to do an Instagram Live presentation of making this drink this evening at 6 pm Paris time. You can use this time converter or this one to find out what time that’ll be where you live. If you miss it, I’ll do my best to archive it on my Instagram page. It’s going to be my first time using that platform so wish me luck…and stop by for a drink with me!]

1 1/2 ounces cognac
1 1/2 ounces sweet vermouth
1/4 ounce orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier, Cointreau, or Curaçao
1 dash orange or aromatic bitters
1 candied or Maraschino cherry, for garnish
1. Add the cognac, vermouth, orange liqueur, and bitters to a cocktail mixing glass.
2. Fill the mixing glass two-thirds full with ice and stir briskly until well-chilled.
3. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a cherry.

Drinking French

Note: I don’t usually make hard pitches for things, but this has been a particularly challenging time for many businesses, especially the hospitality business.  I’ve been cooking and baking, and spending a little more time on social media connecting with others since it seems like the time to stay connected. I’ve loved seeing on social media, people who have been making drinks from Drinking French and sharing them online, which is extremely gratifying, and even touching. Writing a book is a full-on project and I throw myself into my books 100%. This one was especially fun for me because it was a subject that hadn’t been widely explored. I felt like the traditions and recipes for French drinks were worth exploring, which required me to go outside of subjects I had written about before.

Along the way, in addition to people sharing their drinks online, I got to meet some amazing people who went out of their way to be helpful to me, whether they took the time to answer my questions by email, to show me around their distilleries, or to take me behind their bars to show me how they made a drink, sharing their knowledge, and in some cases, a recipe.

To be honest, I was a little scared of the people in the bar community. It was a world I didn’t know a lot about and wasn’t my forté. I figured that like the food world, there would be a lot of strong personalities (and like people in the chef world, there can be some strong egos) but I experienced an openness and generosity that I wasn’t expecting. Bartenders, spirit-makers, spirits writers, and others in the field, could not have been nicer or more helpful. Many are struggling right now due to closures, selling cocktails-to-go and launching Go Fund Me pages for staff members who suddenly found themselves unemployed. If you’d like to help, check the Instagram accounts for your local bar, spirits shop, and restaurant, to see who needs help and what you can do.

Someone else in the food community mentioned on social media that another thing you can to support of your favorite restaurant, cooking school, bar, hotel, bakery, or book, that requires nothing more than a few minutes of your time, is to leave an online review online for them. Many businesses depend on favorable reviews to support their establishments and this is another way you can show your support.

In addition, the book industry has been hard-hit as well as independent bookstores in cities around the world, that have had to close their doors. Many are staying afloat doing mail-order or have come with “no contact” ways to sell books. So if there’s a book you’ve been eyeing, or thinking about getting – now is the time to do it. It’s a small gesture that, if many people do it, will a major impact and can save a lot of businesses, including bookstores, publishing houses (which employ a lot of people), and, of course, writers and cookbook authors.

Some incredible new books are out this spring by friends, which I recommend, such as Cool Beans by Joe Yonan, Falastin by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, La Buvette by Camille Fourmont and Kate Leahy, Dinner in French by Melissa Clark, Flavors of the Southeast Asian Grill by Leela Punyaratabandhu, Beyond the North Wind by Darra Goldstein, Open Kitchen by Susan Spungen, and Spirits of Latin America by Ivy Mix. Those are links to their websites, where you can purchase their books.

If you purchase a copy of Drinking French or another book from a local independent bookseller, I know they would appreciate your business right now. Some of them include Book Larder, White Whale, Kitchen Arts and Letters, Omnivore, Powell’s, Now Serving, Strand, Books are Magic, Archestratus, Books & Books, and RJ Julia. Most are happy to ship.

You also purchase Drinking French online at Barnes & Noble (which has autographed copies), Amazon, Indie Bound, and Book Depository, which offers free international shipping.

[Photo credit for the picture of the French Manhattans from Drinking French at the beginning of the post goes to Ed Anderson, with styling by George Dolese, and hands by yours truly.]

David

A French take on the classic with cognac, orange liqueur and sweet vermouth. From Drinking French: The iconic cocktails, apéritifs, and café traditions of France, with 160 recipes (Ten Speed Press)

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34 comments

  • John ALEXANDER
    March 24, 2020 9:56am

    Hi David, I’m sure you have lots of fans here in France who would be delighted to join you at a correct hour for an apero à distance. Love your writing, use it sometimes to introduce french friends to American humor. All the best, stay safe. Reply

    • March 24, 2020 10:27am
      David Lebovitz

      Yes for a 6 pm/18hr apéro hour! Others elsewhere can join in with a chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) or café au lait, depending on their time zone – looking forward! Reply

  • March 24, 2020 11:20am

    Dear David, I’m not an ‘fancy drinks’ person but I DO like an apéro with something nice in a glass. This post is SO full of knowlege, kindness, help, and a soupçon of fun, beauty, and all the things we so crave right now that I’ll try to be ‘there’ at 6pm.
    I’d also like to thank you for your always super well presented, kind, helpful posts. I no longer comment as I have to fill in the details every time, contrary to WP where it’s all done for me, but I love reading you and I appreciate your books, your writing, your being you. Merci beaucoup. Reply

    • March 24, 2020 2:24pm
      David Lebovitz

      Hi Kiki,
      Thanks for your message. I do use WordPress for my blog but it may be something with your browser. Chrome has something called autofill which is built into it, I think, so that info gets saved. (I think there is something similar for other browsers, too.) But I sometimes get tripped up by tech stuff as well. Appreciate your chiming in! Reply

  • Dorothy
    March 24, 2020 1:03pm

    Hi David,
    My copy of Drinking French arrived from my local bookstore Mystery to Me in Madison Wisconsin. The book is beautiful. Fortunately the liquor stores are considered an essential service. The French Manhattan is on the list for today- planning to work my way through the book. Reply

  • Bernadette
    March 24, 2020 1:18pm

    Hi David, I live in a state that has limited us to essential services. Just ordered your book for my Kindle. Now I can have your recipes immediately. Fortunately, the liquor stores are considered essential, so I can buy whatever ingredients I need. Stay safe. Reply

  • phanmo
    March 24, 2020 1:37pm

    I’ve always had trouble with butter in cookie recipes here (Nantes); I tend to put slightly less butter and slightly (very slightly) more liquid but it doesn’t always work. I sometimes add a little bit of gluten (thanks to your post on French flours!) which seems to help. Reply

  • March 24, 2020 2:30pm
    David Lebovitz

    Dorothy and Bernadette: Nice to hear it and glad you can still get “essentials” : ) Reply

  • March 24, 2020 3:49pm

    Just a quick note for Toronto fans. Drinking French is available at Book City (indie book stores), and if there’s one near you, they’ll deliver to your house. This is a triple win – you get great drink recipes, Book City makes a sale, David makes a sale…. Reply

    • March 24, 2020 3:52pm
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks for chiming in with another independent bookstore…that delivers! I hyperlinked your comment so people in Toronto can check out that bookstore – sounds like a great resource to have in your community. Reply

  • March 24, 2020 4:08pm

    While physically isolating in NYC, I am missing the cinnamon-sugar crullers from Daily Provisions. So I dug up a recipe I have saved but never made from April 1973 (McCall’s Cooking School) for French Crullers & Beignets. They were good but I couldn’t make the cinnamon-sugar coating stick. Can you help? Reply

  • Carol Gillott
    March 24, 2020 4:40pm

    So many changes. What a shame. Are the pictures from the book? Such pretty bottles. I’d love to try to paint them… Reply

  • MR in NJ
    March 24, 2020 5:31pm

    Lines are now long outside branches of a local discount liquor store called Bottle King. I have enjoyed imagining that the patient patrons are consulting lists of ingredients for the recipes in your new book. Or maybe looking for gallons of plonk! Reply

    • PZ
      March 25, 2020 12:25am

      Sorry to have missed the party.

      Thanks for helping all who are hurting.
      God bless! Reply

      • March 25, 2020 9:18am
        David Lebovitz

        You can watch the Instagram Live video over on my Instagram page if you missed it. I’m going to put it in my Highlights (if I can figure out how to do that!) I’ll be doing more this week, hopefully Reply

  • Deborah Hodges
    March 24, 2020 6:41pm

    David,

    Loved the live instagram stream today. It was so fun and appreciated during this lockdown period! You are great at this and you should have a tv show, for sure. I love how natural and real you are. I have the book and am going to make drinks, but I need more supplies. The tutorial helps and was fantastic today. Hope you and Romain have a great night. Merci beaucoup!! Reply

  • heidipie
    March 24, 2020 7:21pm

    I missed today’s apero, but will definitely try to join the next one. It’ll be 10am here in Berkeley, but who cares? Reply

    • jane
      March 26, 2020 5:06am

      oh heidi, heidi, heidi. . .keep it together! ; ) Reply

  • Ellen
    March 24, 2020 8:00pm

    Thanks David – can’t wait to try this. I’m a fan of the Vieux Carre, which is like a sophisticated Manhattan. Reply

    • March 25, 2020 9:20am
      David Lebovitz

      I love that cocktail too! Vieux Carré. Reply

      • Karin
        March 26, 2020 12:10am

        Watch it as well, it’s for tomorrow. Today’s try was The Pommes. Best yet. Reply

  • Ellen Wuilty
    March 24, 2020 10:58pm

    Caught your video after the fact but it didn’t matter at all.I really enjoyed it and was really interested to see how many people were watching from all over the world.Very cool.Do another one please!!! Reply

  • Susan
    March 24, 2020 11:15pm

    Please do another live Instagram! I was babysitting so I couldn’t watch ! Love your book ! Reply

  • Anne Lutkus
    March 24, 2020 11:53pm

    I was in Paris planning to come to the book launch. Not just for the Content you promised. Didn’t happen. This helps and I will order the book. Reply

  • Anne
    March 25, 2020 12:33am

    I watched the live Instagram video at noon in Texas. I made them at 5:30 ( @80degrees) and we enjoyed them. My husband had 2
    Thank you for your instagram posts, very uplifting.
    I bought your French Drinking and am reading L’Appart, which makes me madder than COVID.
    Salut Reply

    • March 25, 2020 9:17am
      David Lebovitz

      Glad you liked the Live Instagram. I may do another one tonight (or this week) for the Boulevardier in the book, due to popular demand : )

      Hope you enjoy Drinking French and…L’appart…in spite of the stressful situation(s)! Reply

  • Linda L.
    March 25, 2020 6:07am

    Another way to help restaurants, bars, book stores and other small businesses weather this storm is to purchase gift certificates from them now that you will use when things are back to normal. This puts some cash in their pockets that will help them meet their bills in the short term.
    If you are in a position where your income hasn’t been disrupted and would have gone out for dinner, a drink or a show, please think about spending that money in a way that benefits the owners and workers at the places you would normally frequent. It will make such a difference to them.
    Please stay safe, everyone! Reply

  • March 25, 2020 9:36am

    I enter your website regularly almost every day. You have some great articles. I Love Your Suggestions. Thanks. Reply

  • March 25, 2020 10:17am

    Bonjour David! I loved the Instagram live video yesterday, and I hope you’ll do more :)

    Being a Parisian too, I saved the address of this bar with 5€ Negroni. I hope to head there as soon as circunstances allow it! Reply

  • Cat
    March 25, 2020 5:50pm

    I am reading your book that I purchased from my local independent bookstore last week and am enjoying it greatly like I do all of your books. And I don’t drink! My husband does drink and is also enjoying it. So beautifully designed and written. Thanks again and cheers from Boston! Reply

  • Karen Tripson
    March 25, 2020 8:05pm

    BOught the book yesterday from my local indie and made the French Manhattan last night. Both fabulous Thx in advance for all the future pleasure. Tell Ed the photography is outstanding. Reply

  • Michele B
    March 26, 2020 12:18pm

    Hi David,

    I thoroughly enjoyed your two videos that you recently posted. It was much needed during these home isolation times! I took stock as to what I have to make the French Manhattan. My question is can I use B&B as a substitute for the cognac? I live in New Jersey in the liquor stores are open, however, I am trying to limit my exposure by staying home. Thank you!
    Michele B Reply

    • March 27, 2020 6:45am
      David Lebovitz

      Hi Michele,

      I haven’t used B&B but I suspect it would work great! Reply

  • MJS
    April 1, 2020 8:03pm

    David, I ordered your book from Bookshop.org, “an alliance of independent bookstores.” I’m quarantined, but wanted to do my bit for local bookstores!
    Reply

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