We didn’t start drinking Manhattans at our house until after the election of 2016. After that, for a while, anyway, we’d mix up one cocktail, late at night, pour it into two glasses, and sit on the sofa by the woodstove, trying to shake off the worry.
It didn’t really work, so, as with our plans to do more pushups, we did not stick with the program. But sipping those drinks reminded us of some good times. Some of which actually did happen in Manhattan. One or two of them at the bar at Union Square Café. We were freelancers, lucky to be staying in a sublet at my husband’s cousin’s wife’s cousin’s rent-controlled apartment on 14th Street.
Union Square Café was one of those places that made you feel like you belonged, even though you didn’t. The place was famous and classy and even if you weren’t, the bartenders knew how to find your eyes and get your order right through the crowd. And they had these bar nuts. They were lightly dusted with salt and sugar. Not dusted, exactly, because there was also a little butter keeping those two essential flavorings together, but the coating was light, barely there. They smelled herby; that was speckles of fresh rosemary.
I figure they belong in a newspaper recipe file, too, because the book says they once won the New York Press award for “best bar nuts in New York.” That’s got to be hard to do.
Somebody gave me the cookbook, which revealed two secret ingredients: the sugar is brown sugar and, although they’re not spicy, there’s cayenne pepper in the mix.
The truth is, those incredible bar nuts weren’t quite the same at home. Away from the sparkle of that place, or up against present high crimes and misdemeanors, they seem underpowered. For the here and now, I increase the brown sugar a smidge.
2 lbs. raw almonds or mixed nuts
2 Tbsp. finely chopped rosemary
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
I like a combination of four nuts: whole unpeeled almonds, peanuts, cashews, andpecans or walnuts.
Heat the oven to 350 F. Toss the nuts in a large bowl and spread them out on a baking sheet.
Roast for about 10-12 minutes, until they smell good and take on some golden color.
While the nuts are toasting, combine the rosemary, cayenne, brown sugar, salt, and melted butter in that same large bowl.
When the nuts come out of the oven put them right into the bowl and toss thoroughly to get them coated evenly.