It’s OK — it really is — to express your disdain for mint juleps, even during the first week of May, even in Kentucky. But if you’re going to drink at all during our annual bacchanalia, it would be bad form to choose any distilled spirit other than Kentucky’s own gift to the gods, bourbon.
And no, we don’t mean bourbon-and-Coke. Please. If you can’t take it straight up or with a splash of branch water, let us recomm/files/storyimages/that classic cocktail, the Manhattan. It’s about as simple, and as sweet, a mixed drink as you’ll find: Pour a three-to-one ratio of bourbon to sweet vermouth, add a dash of Angostura bitters (or not) and drop in a maraschino cherry or two. It’s generally served cold, either shaken with ice, then strained, or poured on the rocks.
Not sweet enough for you? Lower the bourbon/vermouth ratio to two-to-one or — purists, please avert your eyes — add a little of the maraschino cherry juice to your mix.
Any decent watering hole in town can serve up a good Manhattan, and probably each will vary the ingredients and proportions a smidgen. You’ll find one of the more impressive presentations at Azalea, where they mix their concoction in a stainless-steel shaker and then strain it into a tiny sidecar carafe that’s placed in ice water, keeping it nicely chilled while you sip your portions daintily from a martini glass.