Cocktail #5: The Made-Up Manhattan
The 18th Room
Last up is The 18th Room, a speakeasy-themed bar halfheartedly hidden behind a coffee shop. Inside, the decor is dark and deco-inspired, with mirrors and velvet and glints of gold. Behind the bar, Brandon Bartley looks a little steampunk with a white vest and a nose ring.
I dutifully recite my order: I like Manhattans, I tell him, but I’m not married to whiskey. And I’m looking for something with a summery twist.
“We never repeat cocktails,” Bartley tells me as he measures out Dad’s Hat rye, white vermouth, sweet vermouth del Professore, and manzanilla sherry.
Unlike the rest of the bartenders, he claims that he can create an infinite number of completely custom cocktails: “A lot of bartenders say they make custom drinks for their friends, but you have to do it over and over again, every night, five days a week, four hundred dockets a day,” he says. “And you have to make them interesting, because people are paying you $18 for something special.”
Bartley serves me something special on the rocks, garnished with a peach slice and a sprinkle of saffron. It’s purportedly the most “bespoke” drink I’ve had, but it tastes almost exactly like a Manhattan -- decidedly spirit-forward, with the familiar rye and vermouth, plus a little sweetness from the sherry. I wonder out loud if, for $18, his custom cocktails ever get sent back.
“Sometimes you make a good cocktail,” Bartley answers, “but it’s not what they had in mind. We’re really making drinks on the fly.”
How bespoke was it? A beer koozie with your company’s name on it.