murphy's15 (1)Robb McMahon of Murphy’s Tavern in Rumson mixes up a pair of bourbon Manhattans. (Photo by Jim Willis. Click to enlarge)


With a recent string of near-freezing nights, Mother Nature put us on early notice about just how cold we’re going to be for the next five months or six months. And like the ant in Aesop’s Fable about getting ready for the winter, PieHole wants to make sure that we’re all  prepared for the cold months to come. The priority of course is to find a good cocktail to drink now that we’ve put away our seersucker and gin and tonics for the season.

Piehole checked in with Robb McMahon, the amply mustachioed mixologist at Murphy’s Tavern in Rumson to see what he suggests drinking now that we can see our breath outdoors.

“Bourbon. A bourbon Manhattan,” says McMahon, who’s been mixing up drinks around the Green for almost 30 years. The Manhattan is traditionally made with a rye whiskey and sweet vermouth, but McMahon says the bourbon version was one of the first drinks he ever made.

“I was raised on making them with bourbons,” he says.

The year was 1985. McMahon says he was working as at the Bilow’s packaged good store on Monmouth Street in Red Bank – now the home of Teak – which had a bar out back.

“They threw me behind the bar in an emergency situation, “McMahon says. “I was a stock boy I didn’t know what I was doing.

“The guy I was covering for said, ‘if you don’t know how to make something, just ask the customer how they like it made and they’ll tell you.’ There was an older fella, and he ordered a Manhattan. I said, ‘how would like that made?’ He told me to chill down some bourbon, put in half a shot of sweet vermouth – and I think he said hold the cherry. It’s one of the first drinks I ever made.”

McMahon went on to extended stints a the Dubliner, on Bridge Avenue, and the Dublin House before teaming up with Heather Vena to buy the old speakeasy Murphy’s.

McMahon says that bourbon is well-suited for autumn cocktails. “The grain for the bourbon is harvested in fall,” he says.

So while you’re watching the leaves and mercury descend, make sure you’re ready for winter by jotting down McMahon’s recipe for his slightly sweet autumn cocktail:

Mix 2 to 3 ounces of bourbon with a heavy half jigger of sweet vermouth and a dash of bitters.

Shake with ice and strain into a 6 ounce glass.

If you’re so inclined, add a cherry.