Cocktail Recipes/Manhattan


Few cocktails receive more reverence than the classic Manhattan cocktail. Simple, refined, and timeless in its appeal, the cocktail has been a bar favorite since the mid-1870s, and there’s no sign of it losing its fervent admirers any time soon.

What Is a Manhattan Drink?

A Manhattan is a whiskey cocktail, typically made with either rye or bourbon. It’s served much in the same way as an Old Fashioned cocktail, made in the glass in which it is served, over a large single ice cube in a lowball glass.

Manhattan Cocktail Recipe

Serving size: 1 drink

Drink strength: 30% ABV

Prep time: <15 minutes

Equipment needed:

  • A lowball glass


  • 2 oz Bourbon or Rye whiskey
  • 1 oz Sweet red vermouth
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Ice
  • Optional: Brandied cherry for garnish


  1. Pour all of the ingredients over ice in your lowball glass.
  2. Gently stir. Add a cherry for garnish.

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The History of the Manhattan Drink

The most common origin story for the Manhattan is that it was invented in the Manhattan Club in New York City, sometime in the mid-1870s. The story goes that Dr. Iain Marshall created the drink for Winston Churchill’s mother, Jennie Jerome, who was hosting a banquet there in honor of a presidential candidate.

However, like with every cocktail origin story, there is some dispute over the validity of this particular claim — apparently Jennie was actually in England about to give birth to Winston Churchill at the time of this claim.

Another story claims that the Manhattan drink was actually invented by a man only known as Black at a bar on Broadway. We have only a few conflicting stories to paint the picture of the truth, but it would seem that the former claim giving credit to Iain Marshall has been disproven.

Manhattan Ingredients

The ingredients in a Manhattan are simple enough — just two ounces of bourbon or rye whiskey, an ounce of sweet red vermouth, and two dashes of Angostura bitters. The drink is conventionally made in the glass in which it is served, and garnished with either a maraschino or a brandied cherry.

What’s the Difference Between Bourbon, Whiskey, and Rye?

There’s usually a lot of confusion about the differences between whiskey and bourbon, and even rye. The type of grain and the type of barrel that a whiskey is aged in usually determines what kind of whiskey it is.

A lot of people use bourbon, whiskey, and rye interchangeably in their cocktail recipes. In certain instances where the flavor differences are still complemented by the other ingredients in the cocktail, this is fine. However, there are notable differences between the three that every home mixologist in the making should be aware of:

Whiskey is a category, and also a spirit. Bourbon and rye are both technically whiskeys. Whiskey is an alcohol made from fermented grain mash, and is typically aged in wooden barrels. All bourbons are whiskeys, but not all whiskeys are bourbons.

Bourbon is a type of whiskey. Bourbon is made from at least 51% corn, and is aged in new charred oak barrels. It’s a general rule that bourbon cannot contain any additives or colorings, and must contain at least 40% alcohol by volume (ABV) at the time of its bottling. Though most bourbon is made in Kentucky, this is not a prerequisite for qualifying as a bourbon. Bourbon is known for having a smoother, rounder taste, with notes of vanilla, oak, and caramel.

Rye is a type of whiskey. Much like bourbon, rye whiskey has certain constraints on what it is made from and how it is aged. To be considered a rye whiskey, a spirit must be distilled from a mash that is at least 51% rye, and be aged at least two years in new oak charred barrels. Rye whiskey has a bolder finish than bourbon, with a note of spice and hardness to it. 

Scotch is a type of whiskey, too. Scotch is made in Scotland, typically from a fermented barley mash. It’s heated over a peat fire, and aged in oak barrels for no less than three years. Unlike bourbon, true Scotch is only made in Scotland.

The Best Whiskey for a Manhattan Cocktail

Good whiskeys for Manhattans are subject to a lot of preference, but these receive a lot of praise from amateur and professional mixologists alike:

  • WhistlePig 12 year old Rye
  • Belle Meade Reserve
  • Woodford Reserve Rye Whiskey

The Best Bourbon for a Manhattan Cocktail

Bourbon isn’t considered typical for a Manhattan, but many people do make Manhattan cocktails interchangeably with bourbon and whiskey. These three are all of excellent quality, and complement the flavors of the vermouth and bitters nicely. 

  • Maker’s Mark Bourbon Whiskey
  • Woodford Reserve Bourbon Whiskey
  • Evan Williams Black Label Bourbon

Manhattan Drink Variations You Can Try

The Manhattan is a drink with only a handful of widely known variations — it would seem that the loyalty to the original drink runs too deep to allow for much deviation from the recipe. Nevertheless, these are the most popular variations on the Manhattan cocktail:

Perfect Manhattan recipe: Perfect Manhattans are mixed in a mixing glass and served in a chilled Nick & Nora glass (a stemmed cocktail glass). For this recipe, you’ll want to reduce the sweet red vermouth to a half ounce, add a half ounce of dry vermouth.

Christmas Manhattan cocktail: If you’re looking to whip up a holiday manhattan cocktail, try this variation on the original. Add a half ounce of cranberry juice and a splash of cherry juice to the cocktail, and garnish it with skewered cranberries or a fresh rosemary sprig.

Black Manhattan: This popular variation was created just recently in 2005. To make it, simply swap the sweet red vermouth with an ounce of amaro instead. 

How to Make a Manhattan Drink

Making a Manhattan is simple enough, but you will need to use a steady hand to avoid over pouring on your bitters.

To get started, you’ll need:

  • A Nick & Nora or lowball glass
  • 2 oz bourbon or rye whiskey
  • 1 oz sweet red vermouth
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Ice
  • Optional: Brandied cherry for garnish
    1. Place a single large ice cube in your glass.
    2. Add all of your ingredients to the glass and gently stir.
    3. Garnish with a cherry and serve.

Enjoy promptly.

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If you like this drink, try:

Old fashioned recipe

Negroni recipe

Whiskey sour recipe

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