"The only real stumbling block is the fear of failure. In cooking, you have got to have a what-the-hell attitude." ~ Julia Child

Manhattan with a twist – The Bittersweet

by Julie on February 9, 2015

in Libations

Manhattan with Averna bitters

The Bittersweet

Helen of Troy got nothin’ on me. She might have launched a thousand ships. But I launched a cocktail.

So nyaaa….

OK let’s back up. When searching for the perfect cocktail for my birthday recently, Chef San Diego couldn’t find exactly what he was looking for. So he did what most chefs do – he stole and altered.

The result is my favorite drink EVAH. And I say that as not a cocktail gal

Of the chef, this must be said: he is a purist when it comes to cocktails. He was a bartender through college, and to this day has a thing for high end whiskey and artisinal bitters. He will proudly tell anyone who doesn’t ask that he first learned to mix a Manhattan at the age of 10. He has passed this skill down to his teenage daughter, who will surely put it to good use herself through college.

So it was with serious intent that he investigated the particular tipple to go with my birthday menu. He searched for something that would go with my Mediterranean dinner flavor profile. He came up with two options:

One was for the Black Manhattan, which substitutes Averna  for the sweet vermouth in the recipe. He found it too bitter.

The second was the Boulevardier which substituted Campari for half the sweet vermouth…apologies to Negroni lovers…nasty bitter aftertaste!


So he concocted this. Called the Bittersweet.
(What follows is a ratio recipe…assume about 4 fl oz for a single cocktail.)

4 parts Rye (options listed below)
1 part Sweet Vermouth (options listed below)
1 part Averna Amaro
2 dash bitters (options listed below)


Pour rye, vermouth, Averna and bitters over cracked ice in a cocktail mixer (glass or stainless fine) Stir until container is chilled. Strain (using Hawthorne strainer) into a chilled Martini or Coupe glass, and garnish with the cherry.
Straight preferred.
George Dickel


If necessary, straight Bourbon can be used.
Try one of these:

Buffalo Trace
Four Roses


Sweet Vermouth:
Martini: moderate cost
Noilly Prat – higher cost
Carpano Antica – what time should I come over!
Angostura – traditional, and great for cooking!
Peychaud – basic in most nice bars
Fee Brothers Old Fashioned
Any type of orange bitters works nice.


Is this dangerously delicious? Try it tonight, and you tell me.


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So you get home at 7:30 p.m.  and you’re exhausted. And you still need to make dinner for the nits. BUT, you have in your possession one dozen freshly laid farm eggs from the fabulous Kelli, urban farm woman about town, who keeps chickens in her yard, and who texted you a photo of their output just today. She lives close to the train station so you swung by to procure. She has also booned you with fresh chives, parsley, and two kinds of chard.


So you post this bounty on Facebook, because you are happy you have urban farm friends who provide you fresh produce. What shall I make for dinner? You ask the madding crowd. Somebody suggests you make shaksuka, a Middle Eastern home staple of eggs in spicy tomato sauce and you think, heck yeah. THIS is what will nourish my children and myself this evening. No Chinese, no In ‘n Out, no anything a hardworking middle class mom turns to when she gets home on the downslope to bedtime, children still unfed, not to mention herself.

BUT, your kids are growing up. The girl is out with friends. The boy, now taller than his own father and hungrier than anyone you’ve met in the last decade, reacts to what you propose to make for his dinner with a pained look, then asks for pasta.

You realize you will be making shakshuka for one.

Fine. Here is how you do it:


The recipe: (for one. This is 1/2 the original recipe.) 

Half an onion, thinly sliced

half a red pepper, thinly sliced

two tablespoons olive oil

Teaspoon of cumin

Teaspoon of sweet paprika

dash of cayenne

1/3 cup feta cheese

one can diced tomatoes in their juice

however many eggs you desire

salt and pepper to taste.


How you do it:

It couldn’t be easier. Saute the onions and peppers in the heated olive oil, gently for about 20 minutes, until they are soft. Add your spices. You can adjust as you like heat or not. And improvise with what you like. Second time I made this, I used some sumac. Not bad.


The origin: Onions and red peppers.

The origin: Onions and red peppers.


Saute for about 20 minutes or until soft and fragrant….


The spice.

The spice.

Add the spices….

The recipe at the Times calls for using whole tomatoes and crushing them with your hands. Quaint. But no. I opened a can of diced tomatoes in their juice and dumped that in whole. Crush with my own hands. Ain’t nobody got time for that…

Add that feta. Trust me on that…

Anyway, when the tomato sauce is all heated through and it’s smelling up your kitchen with anticipation, gently break your eggs onto the top of the mix.

How many eggs? Your choice. I love eggs.

I used three. Because eggs.

Season expertly with salt and pepper.

Use an oven mitt and place the whole pan into the preheated oven until the eggs set, about 7 – 10 minutes.

This is what you get for your trouble:




The miracle.

The photo maybe doesn’t do it justice. I took it with my cellphone.

Is it good? Of course it’s good. Millions of Middle Eastern moms can’t be wrong. Toast some pita bread and you’re gonna feel pretty smug eating this down for dinner. It’s delicious. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Whatevs.

I’ve already made this twice. It’s that easy. And that good. The girl tried this and pronounced it good. The boy? Stay tuned.

Read more about Shakshuka here, and here, and here. Once again, I am late the the party. But no matter.



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