Walking into T-Bar Steak & Lounge on the Upper East Side of Manhattan is like walking into a Noel Coward play – or rather walking into a Woody Allen movie describing a Noel Coward play: "someone should be mixing martinis."
Instead they were mixing Manhattans. Seemingly appropriate except…
Is a Manhattan made with Canadian Whiskey a Manhattan – even if it's made in Manhattan?
Maybe it should be something like a Saskatchewan? But that's hard to order after a couple of drinks.
Commonly made with Canadian Whiskey because that's what is at hand, Manhattans if at all possible should be made with rye. Accompanying the rye will be the requisite short dash of sweet vermouth and the picturesque maraschino cherry. Occasionally you will come across a Bourbon Manhattan, but that sounds like an oxymoron, doesn't it?
There's some dispute as to the origins of the name Manhattan for this strong, masculine drink – whether it is for the borough itself or a derivation on the name Martinez for the vermouth – but there's no argument that this is a cocktail your grandparents made by the pitcher. At 4 p.m. Manhattans were put in the fridge. At 5 p.m., they were consumed.
T-bar is a steak house with more fish and vegetarian courses than steaks. The menu is for the Upper East Side type – you know – the larger the Manhattan apartment, the thinner the occupant. With my steak (seeing as how I neither have a Manhattan apartment nor am thin), I ordered a jalapeno margarita. T-Bar was T-short on anything but sweet cocktails on their signature menu, so I thought the jalapeno concoction would be a nice balance to my carnivore leanings. It was.
– El Tesoro Platinum Tequila
– Triple Sec
– A healthy portion of sliced jalapenos
– Fresh lime juice
And instead of the sickeningly sweet simple syrup you might find in other margaritas, T-Bar used Sprite because "it's a natural!"
It took a couple of sips to get past the pepper shock, but by the end of the drink and the middle of the steak, it was a drink and dinner made in heaven.
T-Bar is a very noisy bar, not like a Noel Coward play at all, now that you mention it. All the bon mots are lost in the din. You'll need to learn to lip read. But there's probably an app for that now.