With cocktails, appearances count. At the Matchbox, Manhattans are served straight up, shaken right before your eyes. The action of ice banging around, slightly “bruising” the beverage and softening the edges, can’t help but pique the interest of the imbiber. When the liquid is poured into the glass, the result is a gorgeous composition of cold reds and browns. The drink is sweet without being girly and strong without being stupid.
Although Maker’s Mark is the bar’s default bourbon, rye, the original dark liquor in this drink, and the less-favored brandy are both traditional options. The cocktails are made with both dry and sweet vermouth (many places use only the latter), but the key ingredient in the Matchbox rendition, “what really sets us apart,” according to bartender Tony Mata, are the signature brandied cherries—no tawdry red Maraschinos here. Magenta pearls often swashbuckled onto a tiny cocktail sword, they add a bit of boozy sweetness to balance the requisite Angostura bitters. 770 N. Milwaukee, 312-666-9292. —David Hammond
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