Manhattan Story: a Majestic version
It was late one Saturday, and we were tired of where we were but not tired enough to go home. So we went to The Majestic Restaurant on Broadway, slipping downstairs to catch the last of the The Bram Wijnands Trio’s last set and order one drink. I’d almost forgotten how much I love the feel of the building, which was built in 1911 and has at one time or another housed a saloon, bordello and speakeasy.
According to The Pitch, Frank and Jolyn Sebree renovated the building in the 1980s, adding nineteenth century polished wood bars and turning the third floor into what’s now a private club and event space. Restaurant tenants came and went—including Fitzpatrick’s, an upscale wild game spot we discovered after moving into an apartment at 7th & Broadway in 1990, and The New Majestic, where we once celebrated my aunt’s birthday with raucous jazz and who knows how many bottles of wine. After the latest tenant left, the Sebrees decided to run the restaurant themselves and unveiled The Majestic in 2009.
So much is the same. The Jazz Age mural near the front door, the music, the pressed tin ceilings and white-washed basement walls. The drinks menu is thoroughly modern, though. R Bar fans will recognize favorites Shawn Moriarty brought with him when he moved to The Majestic in November, like the Perfect Cocktail (Ransom Old Tom gin with sweet and dry vermouths) and Moriarty’s own Elder Hombre (St-Germain elderflower liqueur, reposado tequila and ginger beer). But something about the restaurant’s old-school vibe begged an old-school drink. My husband skipped the cocktail idea all together and went with a slug of Caol Ila single malt, neat with a water back. Me? I ordered a Manhattan.
The first thing that struck me about this Manhattan was what it was not. Not bourbon. Not shaken, with a sheen of ice shards on the top. Not gussied up with apple liqueur, Pernod or inventive garnishes. Now, I’m all for invention, and there are times when a new spin on an old favorite suits an adventurous mood. But not last Saturday. Our bartender, Tom, served a straightforward classic made with Old Overholt rye whiskey, Cinzano vermouth, Angostura bitters. Stirred to cold smoothness. Served up. Garnished with one Maraschino cherry. I sipped it down, and then it finally was time to go home.