From its inception in the late 1800s, the Manhattan cocktail has exploded in popularity almost overnight, with more than one establishment taking credit for creating this timeless drink recipe. Despite trends in mixology that have come and gone, this classic has remained the drink of choice for both the whiskey aficionado as well as those new to sipping on this gentle spirit. While there have been some subtle adaptations to the original version, this cocktail has managed to withstand the test of time.
The Manhattan Cocktail
Rye or Bourbon
The Manhattan Club, one of the establishments that would later boast as having come up with the recipe, happened to have quite a store of rye on hand; so, for practical purposes, this was used from the start. Rye, with its distinctly spicy notes and dry finish, left a favorable impression with imbibers.
As bourbon became more widely distributed, people grew to have an appreciation for its smoother, sweeter flavor. Either rye or bourbon can be used, based on your personal preference. Purists will tell you that rye is the way to go, but if you are partial to a drink on the sweeter side, stick with bourbon.
It didn’t take long for bartenders to realize the benefits of bitters were more than just medicinal. Just a few drops of these botanical elixirs brought out the best qualities of what they were mixing and made their drinks stand out in the crowd. Angostura is still one of the most popular brands today and was used in the original concoction, however, there are many ways to deviate from the classic version if you feel like adding a different element to your “usual”.
Chocolate bitters will play on the bourbon and the cherry and can turn your drink into a dessert replacement if you are counting calories. Swapping Angostura for orange bitters will align the sweetness of the vermouth with the spiciness of the rye making each sip a delight.
Shaken or Stirred
A request to shake your Manhattan may make your bartender cringe, and for good reason. Shaking a drink with whiskey will cause it to foam and can also dilute the flavors. You will keep the integrity of the drink by chilling it with a careful stir, and you will be rewarded with a first sip that has all the right viscosity without being watered-down.
If you are ready to make your own, start by gathering the ingredients and the tools of the trade. You will need:
- 2 oz. bourbon or rye
- 1 oz. sweet vermouth
- 1 dash orange bitters
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- Mixing glass,
- Luxardo cherry
- Long spoon
- Cocktail glass
If you like your drinks extra cold, chill your cocktail glass ahead of time. Build your drink by filling your mixing glass with ice, then add your chosen spirit, the vermouth, and bitters, and stir gently for 20-30 seconds. Strain your cocktail into the chilled glass, garnish with a cherry, and enjoy.
Making drinks at home is an economical way to wind down after a long day. Once you are ready, branch out and try some of the other ways to enjoy this drink; you could discover a new favorite cocktail.
There have been some tweaks on this drink over the years which are compliments to the original. For instance, a die-hard scotch drinker may be unwilling to part with whiskey’s smokier cousin when it comes to enjoying an evening drink. The Rob Roy substitutes scotch for rye or bourbon. The following interpretations also take the original recipe to heart:
- Perfect is a request for equal parts sweet and dry vermouth.
- Dry substitutes French vermouth for the traditionally used Italian vermouth.
- Black replaces Amaro for vermouth.
- Reverse swaps the measurements of whiskey and Vermouth making it lower in alcohol.