Godzilla’s Manhattan

A recent Bizarro:


(I’ll get back later to the piece of pie in the center of the cartoon.)

Godzilla seems to hold an idea about proper names: roughly (though it’s hard to be sure about the mind of a cartoon monster) that referents sharing a name do so because of some intrinsic or natural identity between them, in this case that the Manhattan cocktail and the island (or borough) of Manhattan must share some intrinsic property: in Godzilla’s mind (given his experience), hordes of screaming people fleeing in fear.

But the cocktail comes up short in this respect.

Now, in the real world, referents that share a proper name do so for historical reasons, which are typically complex and often arcane. And, not infrequently, hard to trace with any assurance. So it is with the cocktail. From Wikipedia:

A Manhattan is a cocktail made with whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. Commonly used whiskeys include rye (the traditional choice), Canadian whisky (simply called Rye in Canada), bourbon, blended whiskey and Tennessee whiskey. The cocktail is often stirred and strained into a cocktail glass, where it is garnished with a Maraschino cherry with a stem. A Manhattan is also frequently served on the rocks in a lowball glass. The whiskey-based Manhattan is one of five cocktails named for one of New York City’s five boroughs, but is perhaps most closely related to the Brooklyn cocktail, a mix utilizing dry vermouth and Maraschino liqueur in place of the Manhattan’s sweet vermouth, as well as Amer Picon in place of the Manhattan’s traditional bitters.

… A popular history suggests that the drink originated at the Manhattan Club in New York City in the early 1870s, where it was invented by Dr. Iain Marshall for a banquet hosted by Jennie Jerome (Lady Randolph Churchill, Winston’s mother) in honor of presidential candidate Samuel J. Tilden. The success of the banquet made the drink fashionable, later prompting several people to request the drink by referring to the name of the club where it originated—”the Manhattan cocktail”. However, Lady Randolph was in France at the time and pregnant, so the story is likely a fiction.

The original “Manhattan cocktail” was a mix of “American Whiskey, Italian Vermouth and Angostura bitters”. During Prohibition (1920–1933) Canadian whisky was primarily used because it was available.

However, there are prior references to various similar cocktail recipes called “Manhattan” and served in the Manhattan area. By one account it was invented in the 1860s by a bartender named Black at a bar on Broadway near Houston Street.

An early record of the cocktail can be found in William Schmidt’s “The Flowing Bowl”, published in 1891. In it, he details a drink containing 2 dashes of gum (gomme syrup), 2 dashes of bitters, 1 dash of absinthe, 2/3 portion of whiskey and 1/3 portion of vermouth.

The same cocktail appears listed as a “Tennessee Cocktail” in Shake ’em Up! by V. Elliott and P. Strong, copyright 1930 (p. 39): “Two parts of whiskey, one part of Italian Vermouth and a dash of bitters poured over ice and stirred vigorously.”

(Note the — unremarkable — truncation of Manhattan cocktail to the count noun Manhattan.)

However, Wikipedia’s speculations are not necessarily dependable (since they are accumulations of speculations from different sources). The OED doesn’t speculate on the source of the cocktail name, but it does have some dating; OED3 (Sept. 2000) gets it back to 1882, in the Olean NY Democrat:

It is but a short time ago that a mixture of whiskey, vermouth and bitters came into vogue. It went under various names — Manhattan cocktail, Turf Club cocktail, and Jockey Club cocktail.

(This quotation raises the possibility that the name Manhattan cocktail was chosen not because of some connection to Manhattan, but simply because it was seen as classy, especially in places Upstate, like Olean.)

The Wikipedia article mentions other cocktails named after boroughs of New York City; these are listed in a Cocktail Buzz page, here. Presumably, it all started with the Manhattan, and then inventive mixologists ran with the idea. In brief:

the Manhattan Cocktail: whiskey-based

the Bronx Cocktail: gin-based, with orange juice and orange bitters

the Brooklyn Cocktail: whiskey-based (as above)

the Queens Cocktail: gin-based, with pineapple juice

the Staten Island Ferry: rum-based, with pineapple juice

The piece of pie in the cartoon. Back to the Bizarro. As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, Don Piraro sprinkles a number of symbols through his cartoons, and notes the number just above his signature — 3 in this case: the eyeball in the cocktail glass in the foreground, the stylized rabbit in the photo on the wall, and that piece of pie. Normally, the symbols are inconspicuous, easy for most people to miss. But the pie is right there in an attentional center of the drawing. I have no idea what this means, if anything. (Maybe Godzilla is a pie fanatic.)

5 Responses to “Godzilla’s Manhattan”

  1. Larry Schourup Says:

    The eyeball in the cocktail glass could suggest a play on eyeball/highball (though the glass is the wrong shape for a highball). And, if so, and Piraro is messing with initial consonants, then the pie on the stool could be a play on pie stool/high stool. No idea what to make of the rabbit.

  2. Larry Schourup Says:

    Ah! Since the other two involve h (highstool/highball), the rabbit must be a hare, and would be there to suggest, “Hare’s looking at you!” (which the hare does seem to be doing). A toast, therefore appropriate to the setting.

  3. Larry Schourup Says:

    Or rather, a pun playing on a famous toast.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      All very ingenious. Really ingenious. Of course, Piraro’s set of symbols has been going on for many years. But you knew that.

      The right response is, I guess, quiet applause and a big giggle.

  4. Dennis Preston Says:

    Or a reference to the joke version of “Jealousy” called “Leprosy,” one line of which went “There goes my eyeball, into my highball.”

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