Few cocktails invoke the smooth sophistication associated with the classic Manhattan.
History of the Manhattan
The most likely birthplace of the Manhattan as we know it is… well, Manhattan. After that most of the details have been lost to history. Some attribute the venerable cocktail to the Manhattan Club in the 1870s, while others trace the drink to a bar further downtown near the corner of Broadway and Houston.
Wherever its origin, over the years the cocktail underwent various changes—perhaps most notably the switch to Canadian whisky* due to Prohibition limiting the availability of American varieties. After enduring over a century, the Manhattan continues to seduce cocktail enthusiasts with its rich complexity and polished elegance.
Manhattan Tasting Notes
A properly made Manhattan is spicy and lustrous, with its dry herbal aroma introducing deep, warm, velvety bittersweetness.
2 oz Whiskey: We prefer Maker’s Mark bourbon, though any good American whiskey will do nicely.
1 oz Sweet vermouth: An aromatic fortified wine. Martini & Rossi is still the standard!
2 – 3 Dashes of bitters: Angostura Bitters is our go-to for
Cherry: As a garnish
How to Make a Manhattan
Fill a mixing glass with ice
Pour 2 oz Whiskey
Pour 1 oz Sweet vermouth
Add 2 – 3 Dashes of bitters
Stir gently—enough to mix and chill the ingredients without overly diluting the cocktail
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
Garnish with the cherry
Manhattans can be quite a personal affair. Some enthusiasts get very grumpy if their Manhattan isn’t made just right. Discover your grumpiness threshold with some of the variations below.
Different whiskeys change the Manhattan’s flavor dramatically. For example, bourbons tend to be sweet and full, while rye is drier and more spicy.
Experiment with the ingredient ratios to find your right balance. Don’t go too nuts with the sweet vermouth, though.
Flavored bitters offer a whole new and wonderful variety of aromatics.
A Dry Manhattan uses dry vermouth instead of sweet.
For a Perfect Manhattan, use equal parts sweet and dry vermouth.
Try different brands of sweet vermouth. Carpano Antica Formula is quite popular!
A Brooklyn Cocktail uses Maraschino liqueur and dry vermouth instead of sweet. Look at New York’s other boroughs stepping up their cocktail game, son!
Alternative garnishes such as lemon peel or Luxardo Maraschino Cherries add a pleasant twist and complexity—especially the cherries.
As complex as it is, the Manhattan does allow for some flexibility with ingredients. Some.
Some cocktail traditionalists insist an authentic Manhattan must be made with rye, which was more popular in New York when the cocktail was invented. Don’t get too bent out of shape if you don’t have rye for an “authentic” Manhattan. Again, any decent whiskey should do.
Try port or sweet madeira instead of sweet vermouth.
When to Serve
Serve Manhattans whenever you want to add a touch of sophistication to your event.
Cocktail Parties: The Manhattan is appropriate for both casual and formal parties. They’re also pretty impressive.
Formal events: Wedding receptions, New Year’s Eve Parties, or any formal events.
Dinner parties: The slightly bitter spiciness works well as an aperitif, served before the meal.
What to Serve with a Manhattan
The Manhattan complements spicy, sweet, and medium to full-flavored dishes.
Barbecue, especially if making Manhattans with bourbon
Salty snacks, like charcuterie, antipasti, and cheese