We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Love Letter to Papa and his Perfect Manhattan

The Memory Keepers by Linda and Michelle

"When someone you love becomes a memory, that memory becomes a treasure." ~Unknown

William Earl Bandy—the Salvation Sisters' maternal grandfather.
   Our maternal grandfather, Earl, had a favorite cocktail. We girls called him Papa, and upon reflection, he was fond of cocktails in general. He was the one, after all, who told us about Bellini's and Harry's Bar in Venice. He encouraged us to go, and when in Venice, have a Bellini, and toast him. We both feel very fortunate to have done this. Later in life, he belonged to a group of men in Redlands, California, who called themselves the Wild Turkeys. Once per month, much to the dismay of their wives, the retired men would gather at each others homes for an afternoon of cards, appetizers and some generous sipping of an American bourbon named after a fowl most closely associated with Thanksgiving.
   Papa also sipped that same spirit one memorable and bitterly cold Christmas day, when he and Nana came to spend the holiday with the our family in Solvang. That year, our dad obstinately refused to turn up the heat for our grandparents who were getting on in years, and wanted some warmth. Dad operating under the ungracious mantra of "his house, his rules"—stated they could put on sweaters if they were cold (which they were already wearing—parkas, being unavailable at the time—were the next best option). As a result, Papa sipped so much Wild Turkey trying to stay warm, that he took a little "nap" before dinner. In today's lingo it's referred to as a dirt nap, but in this particular case, it would be called a carpet nap, since his prone body was lying in the territory situated between the kitchen and the formal dining room. It happens. Right? Especially when one is trying to maintain the family peace and keep from being frostbitten. It is no great surprise then—given that unfortunate circumstance—thereafter, when Nana and Papa visited (a testament of their devotion to their daughter and granddaughters) they chose stay at a more hospitable establishment on Alisal Road, just a couple of miles away, where they could retreat from the frosty environs of our family domicile when desired.

Papa and Nana—cocktails and a smoke in 1960. They both would quit smoking soon after  
when the Surgeon General's report of 1964 linked smoking to lung cancer.
   But if pressed to choose our grandfather's favorite cocktail, we sisters would all agree it is the Manhattan made with bourbon. His secret, which he was happy to share with any interested party, is to add an extra cherry and a little additional cherry juice, making it the perfect Manhattan for him. If you ask, Juliette, who is a former bartender, a Perfect Manhattan specifically refers to a less sweet Manhattan. The Perfect Manhattan uses equal parts dry and sweet vermouth, and includes bitters. Michelle really does wish you could hear Juliette on the other end of the phone getting fired up about the terminology (since Michelle had the misfortune to bring this up this topic in a recent phone conversation). As the British like to say, in that friendly and endearing way, "She's brilliant."
   To be clear, Juliette is against adding the word "perfect" to the title of this post because it would indicate that it is a less sweet Manhattan and would include bitters—Papa's Manhattan is decidedly on the sweet side with no added bitters. We really hope we receive a diatribe-type email from Juliette on the subject, because it would be fun to add here—word for word. But that would probably require that we send her an email emphatically stating that we don't think adding the word "perfect" before Manhattan really means anything at all. Then the fireworks would follow. Ka-boom goes the internet.

   As you can see from the photos, our Papa was somewhat of a heartthrob. He came from humble origins, but his good looks, athletic ability, and charm led him to winning a football scholarship at the University of Redlands where his athletic prowess made him a star. He was lauded at the university for his football accomplishments, and his granddaughters were on hand to see him inducted into the University of Redland's Hall of Fame in the early 1980s. These attributes also helped him win the heart of a beautiful girl from Redlands named Maxine. Maxine and her older sister Dorthy (Dodie) were known in the area for their beauty and sass. Together, Earl and Maxine, raised two beautiful children, one of whom is our mother.

   After college, Papa served as an officer in the navy during World War II, and he and Nana suffered through the long years of war, weathering together the separation and deprivations that so many families did. After the war, he was a teacher and a school administrator. Our grandparents were married for over 50 years before Nana succumbed to a heart attack at 72, leaving Papa alone—grieving and bewildered. He sold the house with the turquoise kitchen and views of the San Bernardino Mountains, and moved to Phoenix to be near our mom, where he lived out the rest of his life.

Left to right: Uncle Pat (my mother's brother), our mother Dianne, 
Papa and Nana in Balboa Bay. Circa 1954.
   But we girls have a treasure chest of memories, before the more somber times of his last years. He was a devoted grandfather, and since Nana and Papa's lifestyle was a far cry from the more austere and rustic environs of our childhood home, spending time with our grandparents in visits to Redlands (mostly during summer vacations) when we were young was like escaping to Fantasy Island.
   Mornings were a lazy and fun time where we hopped into bed with our grandparents while the coffee brewed in the electric percolator. When the coffee was finished, Papa would usually fetch steaming cups for the both he and Nana, and he would bring cookies or something sweet for us to share. His hair was usually sticking straight up, and he wore silky nylon pajamas that were great to snuggle next to.
   Papa loved to golf, and he and Nana belonged to the local Redlands Country Club where we girls were frequent visitors for lunch or dinner. There were always Shirley Temples to drink with extra cherries for us, and cocktails for Nana and Papa. The Shirley Temples were a very big deal because we were not allowed to drink sodas at home, and we rarely went to restaurants (unless Mom baked a cow's head for dinner—true story). Only then—out of absolute necessity—would we enjoy the rare night out, because even our Dad couldn't choke down the cow's brain or endure the horrifying smell left lingering in our house. But that's a story we'll save for another time. Beyond glorious dining, and being fawned over by our grandparent's friends, there were fun golf cart rides—one being particularly memorable. A very young Maria, who was sitting in the front of the cart, managed to press her foot on the gas pedal and off we went—leaving Papa, who was outside the cart, in our dust. He began running frantically after us yelling, "Stop! Stop!! Maria, take your foot off the pedal!!" A wide-eyed and terrified Maria finally retracted her foot from the pedal, and we narrowly avoided a crash with another cart.

Maxine and Earl Bandy (our maternal grandparents). Circa 1957.
   As very small girls, Papa had us believing that a large and elegant Crepe Myrtle tree out in the yard was a "Candy Tree".  He told us that candy grew on that tree, and we girls would stand and gaze for lengthy periods of time and somehow fail to find any. Then Papa would walk over, and just like magic, pick a piece of candy off of the tree that he would then offer to us in his outstretched hand. Perhaps we were just slower to catch on than other children would have, but Papa had us going with that ruse for quite some time. If we have anyone to hold accountable for all of us having a sweet tooth, the finger of blame would certainly point in Papa's direction. There was always a silver sugar bowl on the table and white sugar went on our Cream of Wheat hot cereal, sliced tomatoes and cottage cheese per Papa's prompting. One of our early favorites were butter and sugar sandwiches which Papa prepared with soft white bread from a local bakery called The Goodie Shop. This bakery also supplied Papa and Nana with sugar cookies and birthday cakes with white icing and oodles of sugary roses.
   As we mentioned previously, Papa was a gifted athlete. He was a talented diver, and a strong swimmer. He loved to body surf—gliding across the waves. In fact, Papa helped a family friend—the son of our Auntie Dick—who had been very seriously injured in the war, heal from his wounds by carrying him out into the sea, where the injured man would kick his legs and move his arms to gradually strengthen his limbs over the course of a summer. As children, our summers were spent in the pool or at the seaside with Papa. Later there were a couple of memorable visits to Hawaii. Nana's sister, the aforementioned, Dodie—took her beauty and sass abroad—establishing herself as an early entrepreneur on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. When we were young, Papa would grab us up in his strong arms, and carry us out into the waves to swim with him, just as he had done in earlier years for his friend. Later, we would body surf side by side with Papa. It was thrilling. He taught us to play a pool game called Dibble Dabble that we loved.

Did we mention that he was crazy about a little Yorkie named Dolly, 
and then one after that named Lovie?
Linda and Papa in the 1980s. Linda would later fall off of the Cherokee
platforms that she is wearing and sprain her ankle.
   Looking back upon those times when our grandparents were still alive, everything seemed so much more simple. Of course, it wasn't—our lives have complications. We learn to take the good with the bad. As time seemingly passes by at a quicker pace, spinning faster year after year, it is important to remember to invest in the relationships that mean the most to us. Papa loved spending time with us, and made us believe that we were endlessly talented, smart, pretty and fun. He read to us, played with us, ate with us, sang with us, played cards with us and danced with us. He did the same when his great-grandchildren were born. It was then that we learned firsthand just how much he loved to cuddle babies. Our parents always worried that we were going to be "spoiled rotten" by our grandparents, but that's not such a bad thing, is it? There are too many people in the world that are all too happy to be the counter balance. Don't we all need people in our lives that make us feel special and spoiled? Friends come and go, but family remains. And the legacy of his investment in us of his time and his love, is that our love for him, our Papa, continues on—long after he has gone.

Linda took this photo of Papa when she was in her early 
twenties on the patio in Redlands.
Papa's Perfect Manhattan

Our Papa's Perfect Manhattan.
   In his later years, Papa enjoyed his evening Manhattan with a cookie du jour. Don't knock it 'til you try it. The bracefulness of the Manhattan pairs nicely with the sweetness of a cookie, especially in the shortbread category. The classic Manhattan cocktail is stirred in a vessel with ice, not shaken, then poured into a decorative glass. The stirring maintains the clarity of the spirit, whether bourbon, whiskey or rye. Linda prefers a cocktail shaker because she likes to dash her ice, bourbon and vermouth so vigorously in the metal shaker that it leaves tiny shards of ice floating in her drink. Hey, it's her house, her rules. ~Michelle

Served here stirred—not shaken.
Ingredients for one generous cocktail:

200 mls bourbon whiskey
50 mls sweet vermouth
2 tsps maraschino cherry juice
2 Maraschino cherries
(Tillen Farms is a natural brand which we also use in our Maraschino Party Cake)
Ice cubes or crushed ice

Two cherries and extra cherry juice—just the way Papa would like it.

Stirring vessel or cocktail shaker
A glass Pyrex 1 cup measuring cup or any container that has ml markings
2 small old fashioned glasses, or martini glasses for a prettier, updated presentation.
Hot tipkeep an eye out at salvage stores for vintage glasses. The ones featured here were found for $2 each at Linda's local thrift store in Petaluma.

Served here after having been shaken vigorously with ice—Linda's rules.

Place two Maraschino cherries plus the 2 tsps Maraschino cherry juice in each glass
Stir together bourbon and sweet vermouth, and pour into a cocktail shaker. Add plenty of ice cubes. Stir or, if you prefer (like Linda) shake vigorously. Strain liquid into the cocktail glass with Maraschino cherries. Serve immediately.

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