Wednesday, September 18, 2019

A Mulled Manhattan with some Vintage John O'Hara

A good few years back I really fell in love with the writing of both John O'Hara and John Cheever. Drinking too much is a theme in both (though it's arguably a more sinister element in Cheever's writing, and possibly his life, than in O'Hara's). I've been hunting for my copy of Cheever's short stories for a couple of days without much success - to the point that I'm no longer sure I ever even owned it (did it stay on a wish list? I don't think so, but who knows).

What is clear is that my books need thoroughly sorting out again, odd things are popping up all over the place, order is needed. Also more bookshelves and a bigger flat so this project might not get very far. What I did find is a collection of John O'Hara stories, and a reminder that I never bought his collected New York Stories when Vintage published them last year. There are always more books to buy.

There's something about the lengthening nights that suits O'Hara's slightly seedy world; maybe it's the imminent return of the students to the city centre and the impending nuisance that is freshers Week for those of us who live near them. Combine that with the now cool night time temperatures and the idea of a Mulled Manhattan is very attractive.

This is a drink that should see you all through winter, the recipe in 'A Spirited Guide to Vermouth' specifies Punt e Mes which is at the more bitter edge of the (rosso) Vermouth spectrum, but I see no reason to stick to that. The basic recipe is 50ml of vermouth, 25ml of bourbon, 10ml water, and a dash of Angostura bitters per person. Put everything into a pan with a strip of orange peel and heat to just below a simmer. Serve immediately with another twist of orange (in a mug or something with a handle).

As an alternative to Mulled wine this is giving you a whole lot more spice, and much less sweetness, both of which are welcome if, like me, you find Mulled wine can be far to sugary. It's very easy to scale up, and depending on what bitters you have available there's some room for playing around with this too.


  1. I really liked O'Hara's Appointment in Samarra when I read it last year, so your post is a timely reminder for me to investigate him again. The stories sound great, almost like a forerunner to Richard Yates. Have you read any of O'Hara's novels? Butterfield 8, for example?

  2. I have. Butterfield 8, and A Rage to Live - both very good, and after more digging around last night realised the reason I didn't have the vintage edition of the New York short stories was because I've got the Penguin edition. I think you'd like Cheever as well if you haven't read him- he's in the same ball park as O'Hara and Yates.

  3. Thanks, Hayley,. That's great - I'll take a look at the two you've mentioned. I have read a few of Cheever stories (e.g. The Swimmer), but nowhere near enough. Another writer for me to investigate further...