5:24 p.m. Thursday: Best Manhattan Cocktail 

Nizza la Bella

It's a very rare bartender who knows how to make a good Manhattan. First, it's supposed to be rye whiskey, not bourbon. Second, you need a good French (or should we say "freedom") sweet red vermouth. And a splash of bitters. Last but not least, throw those vile maraschino cherries in the garbage and poke three or four wild Greek sour cherries smothered in thick sweet syrup onto your cocktail sword, and you're almost ready. You just have to throw away the martini glass along with the maraschino cherries and pour your ingredients into an "old-fashioned" glass with a cube of ice. Add the cherries and drink. Since most folks and most bars aren't going to have a great rye whiskey -- let alone the incredible wild cherries -- instead of trying to educate your bartender, you'd be a whole lot better off letting Evelyne at Nizza la Bella make you the best Manhattan in the East Bay. If you arrive 'tween 5 and 7 p.m., it's the "Violet Hour," and all classic cocktails are only $5. What are you waiting for?

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