Friday, 1 June 2007

Maraschino cherries and orange futures

The Maraschino cherry makes every Manhattan perfect. Well, actually having equal measures of whiskey and dry vermouth makes a Manhattan perfect, of course. And while it is hard to improve upon perfection, any cocktail is surely improved by being served at the Savoy's American Bar. It's described as "American" after Harry Craddock, an influential barman of the 1920's, and not after Ernest Wiegand, the American professor at Oregon State University who re-invented the maraschino cherry in the 1920's (thanks again, Simone!).

Interestingly enough, the name "vermouth" comes from Wormwood, a herb more famously used to flavour Absinthe. Wormwood is also a road of bankers in the City of London, and the name of a "great star" in the book of Revelations at the tail end of the Bible, which claims it will fall to earth, making "one third" of the planet's water fatally bitter. As Kato Mivule said in a dream, "I was like, no Lord no!", which seems like a fair reaction to the upcoming apocalypse. On further investigation, I learned that the makers of Vermouth add sweeteners to it, because otherwise it tastes too bitter. So if you see a "great star" burning across the sky, just reach for a Maraschino cherry and the sugary juice they come with. Should do the trick nicely.

Going back to the Manhattan cocktail, although there are various claims to its origin and originator, it was certainly made famous by Winston Churchill's mother, Jennie Jerome, who was a bit of a goer, by all accounts. Her husbands, besides Lord Randolph Churchill, included George Cornwallis-West and Montague Phippen Porch, both good working class lads from the clay pits of Bedfordshire. Mrs Churchill's active promotion of the Manhattan led to a surge in demand for Maraschino cherries, much as Delia Smith's comments on cranberries did some years later. There is no evidence to suggest that either Churchill or Smith personally profited by careful investments in fruit futures, showing that art doesn't always imitate life.