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The Third Rail: Catcher in the Rye Manhattan

Earlier this summer, famous reclusive and former author J.D. Salinger sued to stop publication of 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye, an authorized “sequel” to his classic The Catcher in the Rye. And who can blame him? His aging protagonist, Holden Caulfield now is “dazed and confused, and has a weak bladder.” But what might have happened to Caulfield if Salinger hadn’t abandoned New York publishing in favor of the New Hampshire woods? Would Caulfield drop out like his literary creator? Perhaps. But given his teenage drinking, it’s more likely that he’s living it up Jay McInerney-style in New York.

In Catcher in the Rye, the underage characters seem to have no trouble getting hold of a few hard drinks. Especially Tom Collins, despite the fact that it’s “in the middle of December, for God’s sake.” Try one no matter what month you’re in: Shake 2 parts gin, 1 part lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon superfine sugar with ice. Strain into a Collins glass filled ice and add 3 parts soda. Garnish with a cherry and orange — maybe his friends drank them in December for all those vitamins?

Speaking of things that bothered Holden during the winter (and all the things that bothered him could fill a book), what about those Central Park ducks? Where do they go when the lagoon gets frozen over? Mourn their disappearance with a Duck Under Cocktail: Shake and strain 1 part gin, 1 part Cointreau, and 1 part grape juice. But don’t mourn too much. “It’s tougher for the fish, the winter and all, than it is for the ducks, for Chrissake.” So drink like a fish in sympathy.

Though Holden does explain the meaning of the book’s title (just ask thousands of high school essayists), he never combines it with his love of alcohol to make the platonic ideal: the Rye Manhattan. Allow me to extol the virtues of Tuthilltown Spirits Manhattan Rye Whiskey. As for the Manhattan, there are as many recipes as there are speculations on what Salinger is up to right now (my guess: tweeting). Try David A. Embury’s quintessential recipe: Shake and strain 2 ounces rye whiskey, ¾ ounce sweet vermouth, and 2 dashes bitters into a cocktail glass. Add a cherry or lemon peel. A surprisingly reliable cure for teenage angst.

Mixologist Michael Cecconi over at the New Yorker thinks Mr. Caulfield might be drinking a Sparkling Sunset, a tequila sunrise topped up with champagne. Cecconi outlines the most authentic version possible: homemade grenadine (pomegranate syrup and white caramel), fresh-squeezed orange juice, 100%-agave tequila, and true French champagne.

The Sparkling Sunset sounds like a great drink, but would Holden Caulfield really like it? Cecconi admits he doesn’t know, but “maybe I’ll call Mr. Salinger and ask him.”

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