Beef and bourbon — it’s what’s for dinner.
A nostalgic bartender told me he pined for the good ol’ days of liquor libations — as he eloquently put it, for the “lost art of the cocktail.” That is, instead of the ostentatious, flamboyant refreshments that alcoholic drinks have become.
Trendy speakeasies have been popping up on Seattle’s radar throughout the past few years, and these drinks are respectful to the classic recipes. However, there’s only a handful of joints in the city that Don Draper or Nucky Thompson would drag their already inebriated selves to — and Metropolitan Grill, an old school throwback to the classic steak and liquor house, is one of them.
Claiming to serve up the “best steak in town,” Metropolitan Grill is housed by the historic Marion Building that has been standing on the corner of Second Avenue and Marion Street since 1903. The Met was brought to patrons by a local restaurant family who established themselves in the early 1950s, which could easily be considered a revolutionary era for the American cocktail.
On this year’s management trip to Kentucky, The Met’s crew of head honchos collaborated with Woodford Reserve, Eagle Rare and Elijah Craig bourbon distilleries to create the Met’s inaugural private selection bourbons.
These spirits were showcased on Friday, Sept. 23 for an audience of nearly 30 media professionals. The Met’s managerial staff put their palates (and livers) to the test in judging many renditions of the classic Manhattan, each prepared by the restaurant’s top mixologists.
Rumor has it, the cocktail was named after the bar where it originated in the 1870s — the Manhattan Club in New York. Comprised of whiskey or bourbon and sweet red vermouth, dashed with Angostura bitters and typically garnished with a cherry or a citrus twist, the Manhattan sounds simple enough.
A slightly nontraditional pairing for yours truly, the real battle is finding which beef best pairs up with the drink. Considering all of the Met’s steaks are supposed to be “the best,” you can understand the predicament.
The Restaurant: The Metropolitan Grill. While the restaurant soberly states that prime beef is their main focus, the menu also boasts an extensive wine bottle list and liquor selection, including more than 35 Scotch and Bourbon selections.
The Dish: If you’re already here, you might as well go big or go home. The Prime New York Peppercorn Steak won’t necessarily break the bank, but it sits up there at the right hand of the king of meats (filet, obviously) and also throws in the extra element of peppercorn seasoning to enliven the double-digit-ouncer.
The Booze Variety: Classic Manhattan. Traditionalists insist on using rye whiskey, but the sweet oak touches of a bourbon Manhattan can really take the edge off the intensity of the alcohol and give a soothing balance to the libation.
Why It Works: The spice and, at times, citrus flavors of peppercorn matched with the rich brawniness of the steak parallel the Manhattan’s citrus bitters (which are added to encourage food flavoring) and opulent, round bourbon. Both seasoned in ways that resemble Christmas potpourri, the quintessential cocktail and its meat counterpart coordinate as if they were already on the same team.
The Recommended Match: Metropolitan Grill’s Absinthe Manhattan, served up for the first time as of Friday afternoon by head Met mixologist Rob Nokes — a man who’s not afraid of the little green fairy. A spanking new version of the standard drink (not to be confused with a Soul Manhattan, which substitutes vermouth for absinthe, rather than including both), this cocktail turns a risqué corner with the addition of the highly alcoholic Absinthe, which contributes licorice and fennel spices to the list of flavors. Based with the Metropolitan Grill Woodford Reserve Personal Selection Bourbon #2 and tossed with red vermouth, cranberry bitters and garnished by a brandied cherry and an orange peel slice, this is a refreshing take on your grandfather’s Manhattan.
Metropolitan Grill | 820 2nd Ave., Seattle | (206) 624-3287