If we were to construct a Mount Rushmore of cocktails, there’s little doubt that the Manhattan would be first. Forget Rushmore, actually, it’s probably better suited for Mount Olympus. It’s that awe-inspiring. The pivotal cocktail is one of the chief building blocks of everything that’s come after, and bartenders throughout the world have long used its ratio of whiskey, fortified wine, and bitters like musicians picking out notes from a specific scale to varied effect. One riff is the Brooklyn, in which dry vermouth is subbed for sweet, and additions include Amer Picon and Maraschino. Or the Red Hook, which uses Punt e Mes and Maraschino.
That’s the idea Ran Duan of Sichuan Garden II in Woburn had in mind for his The Treaty of Paris. Essentially a split Manhattan, with both Cognac and rye, sherry, and Licor 43. Duan was inspired by renowned Seattle barman Jamie Boudreau. His stirred drinks, like the Manhattan, are based on the concept of the “golden ratio,” which calls for 1½ to 2 ounces of spirit, ½ to ¾ ounces of fortified wine such as sherry, and ¼ to ½ ounce of modifier, which “can be anything, an amaro like Amaro Nonino or Fernet, Campari, anything like that, and a few dashes of bitters,” Duan says. “It’s the threshold for the perfect formula, like 90 percent of the time you’ll get a really balanced cocktail.”
For The Treaty of Paris, Duan infused a little of his own history into the storied tradition. While he was studying for his American citizenship a year and a half ago, Duan, who was born in China, was reading up on the treaty that ended the Spanish-American War. “I took influences from that concept, and it came out really good: American with the rye, French with the Cognac, Spanish with the sherry, and Licor 43,” an aromatic citrus and vanilla liqueur. A couple dashes of Bittermens Burlesque Bitters adds a touch of floral hibiscus.
“The spiciness of the rye is counteracted by the sweetness of the Cognac, and after the swallow you get the nuttiness from the sherry, and then an orangey vanilla afternote,” says the bartender. The Licor 43 mingles with notes from the sherry as well, here Lustau East India sherry. “It’s a very harmonious balance, spicy sweet, and nutty,” he says.
Using sherry in place of a standard sweet vermouth is key here. “Two or three years ago it was synonymous with what your grandma drank, but I think it’s delicious, there are so many styles,” says Duan. “It has a really awesome play in cocktails. Especially in the fall with cold weather coming up.”
Luke O’Neil can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.