Do you remember your first experience with hard alcohol? For me, it was sneaking the liquor-soaked cherries out of the Manhattans that my grandparents drank each evening. As a child, I both hated and loved the bittersweet taste. Still, I'd never sat down and ordered a Manhattan until I bellied up to the horseshoe-shaped mahogany bar that dominates the new incarnation of the Skylark Lounge. Forced to move a few blocks south on Broadway after losing the space the bar had occupied since 1943, owner Scott Heron worked hard to re-create the Skylark's venerable atmosphere. Classic James Dean and Rita Hayworth movie posters and pinups once again hang above maroon booths, which are once again packed with rockabilly scenesters and Baker neighbors. One of those booths is the perfect place to enjoy a Manhattan ($4.50), a cocktail as timelessly fashionable as the Skylark and supposedly invented at New York's Manhattan Club in 1874. This version, made with Sweet Vermouth, Maker's Mark and a dash of bitters, is served on the rocks and garnished with a cherry of my very own. "I think we took everything that was good about the old place and made it even better," Heron says of the Skylark's new home. "We tried really hard to create the same cozy feeling." And I'm sure glad they did.
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