While tending bar in New York City almost a decade ago, Patrick McDonald found himself working for an old-school, no-nonsense Portuguese bartender named Paolo.
“He was strict as hell when it came to the classics like Manhattans and martinis,” McDonald says. “He used to always say things like, ‘There’s no such thing as a flavored martini. It’s gin, vermouth, and nothing else.’ He wouldn’t even call a Bloody Mary by that name if it contained horseradish.”
Although McDonald recalls that this rigidity could be problematic, he appreciates the principles that Paolo instilled in him. Nowadays, at Central Provisions, he considers his version of the classic Oak-Aged Manhattan to be the drink the bar does best.
Central Provisions employs a time-honored method of batching large portions of the bourbon-based cocktail and aging it in American oak infusion spirals.“It brings a melding of flavors that become more complex over the space of a month,” he says. After aging, the bartenders simply stir in ice and serve the cocktail straight up with a lemon twist.
“I like this drink so much that I offered it as the signature Groom Cocktail at my wedding,” McDonald says. “But it’s a great cocktail all-year round.”