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.
History of the Manhattan
The Manhattan is a historic cocktail, and the popular story is that it was created by Dr. Iain Marshall in the early 1880s. It was made for a party for Lady Randolph Churchill, Winston Churchill’s mother, and the party was held at the Manhattan Club, giving the cocktail its famous name.
The Manhattan Club happened to have quite a store of rye on hand; so, for practical purposes, rye whiskey was used from the start.
Rye whiskey, 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.
How to Make a Manhattan Cocktail
Check out our quick and easy recipe right down below!
- 2 oz. bourbon or rye
- 1 oz. sweet vermouth
- 1 dash orange bitters
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- Luxardo cherry
- Add bourbon or rye, sweet vermouth, and bitters into a mixing glass with ice
- Use bar spoon to stir until well chilled
- Strain into coupe or martini glass
- Garnish with luxardo cherry
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 following interpretations also take the original recipe and riff on it:
- 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.
- The Rob Roy substitutes scotch for rye or bourbon.
Is a Manhattan shaken or stirred?
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.
What bitters are used in a Manhattan?
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.
What is the difference between a Manhattan and Old Fashioned?
Both the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned are classic whiskey cocktails, but the Manhattan is made with sweet vermouth while the Old Fashioned is typically sweetened with a sugar cube.
Is a Manhattan a sipping drink?
Yes, the Manhattan is typically sipped. The Manhattan recipe does not yield a huge cocktail, but a strong one, so you should sip and enjoy the complex flavors!
What is a Perfect Manhattan?
The Perfect Manhattan is a variation that uses equal parts sweet vermouth and dry vermouth, while the classic Manhattan just uses sweet vermouth.
What’s the best liquor to use for a Manhattan?
The Manhattan can be made with either bourbon or rye whiskey.
If you prefer a sweeter, smoother cocktail, use bourbon. If you like the spicy kick of rye whiskey, use rye.