Stirred and Shaken: Char Bar's Manhattan
Back in 1936, the year Duke's of Hollywood Tailors opened downtown, there were no such things as woo-girls, light beer or house music. Going for a drink meant staking out a stool at a dimly lit bar and ordering a proper cocktail from a man with a white towel draped over his shoulder. You could sip your hooch in peace as you mulled pitching some woo to that tomato in the typing pool. It was a simpler, better time. Unless, of course, you were black, gay, a woman, unemployed or suffering from polio. Shit, on second thought, I'm happy where we're at.
Photo by Troy Fields
At least you can get the good parts of a classic downtown vibe at CharBar (305 Travis, 713-222-8177). The place opened just seven years ago; the venerable feel can be attributed to its location inside Duke's, which is in its eighth decade as a tailoring shop. "We're a real bar," bartender Jeremy says as he mixes a dry Manhattan. "You don't get many of those around here." (Neighbors Warren's and La Carafe also make his team.) The downstairs galley setup is simple and clean, and the service philosophy is commendably old-fashioned. Of course, you can still enjoy modern pleasures like catching the end of the Memphis game on TV or watching the guy next to you do a little shameless seat-dancing to Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel." It's aces.
2 ounces Woodford Reserve bourbon
splash of sweet vermouth
dash Angostura bitters
splash of cherry juice
Shake ingredients over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry. If you prefer yours sweeter or stirred, the bartender will tailor the drink (sorry) to your taste.