Manhattan Cocktail Recipe

5 from 2 votes
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Dating back to the 19th century, the Manhattan cocktail is one of the most well-known, classic cocktails of all time. There are a few different stories behind how the Manhattan cocktail first originated, but I think it’s safe to say it is one of the five borough cocktails that came out of New York in the mid-1800s.

Manhattan cocktail served with a brandied cherry.

The beauty of the Manhattan cocktail lies in its simplicity and the quality of its ingredients. Traditionally, the drink is made with three key components: rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters. Rye was the original choice, but bourbon is commonly used today, offering a slightly sweeter profile.

If you like Manhattans, try my Fall-inspired Manhattan or the similar Brooklyn cocktail and the Boulevardier! Looking for more delicious whiskey classic cocktails? Don’t miss my Old Fashioned cocktail, Whiskey Sour, or Sazerac.

Ingredients

  • Rye whiskey: the Manhattan is classically made with American rye, however, bourbon is a common substitute if you prefer. I prefer bourbon but interchange often!
  • Sweet vermouth: look for Carpano Antica Formula, Dolin, Punt E Mes, or Noilly Pratt.
  • Aromatic bitters: look for the classic Angostura bitters, Scrappy’s Aromatic bitters, or Fee Brothers Aromatic bitters.
  • Optional brandied cherry: I like Luxardo.

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities below.

Manhattan cocktail ingredients on a wooding counter.

Variations: Manhattan Versus Perfect Manhattan

Although the perfect Manhattan and regular Manhattan are the same drink, there are some variations. Traditionally, a classic Manhattan is made with whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. The perfect Manhattan is made with one unique difference, equal parts sweet and dry vermouth.

For example, if a classic Manhattan is made with 2 parts whiskey to 1 part vermouth, we would split the vermouth into 1/2 sweet vermouth and 1/2 dry vermouth, retaining the initial overall vermouth ratio in the cocktail. The perfect Manhattan is a touch lighter in color and sweetness, more similar to the Brooklyn cocktail.

Best Whiskey for a Manhattan

  • For rye whiskey, look for Rittenhouse, George Dickle, Michter’s, Putnam, or Sazerac Rye.
  • If you prefer bourbon, I recommend Buffalo Trace, Larceny, Elijah Craig, Knob Creek, and Rowan’s Creek.

How to Make a Manhattan

Step 1.

Combine whiskey, vermouth, and bitters in a mixing glass with ice (preferably large ice chunks for ideal dilution).

A jigger pouring whiskey into a glass mixing jar.

Step 2.

Stir vigorously for 20 seconds.

Stirring a Manhattan cocktail in a glass mixing jar.

Step 3.

Strain into a chilled coupe or Nick and Nora Glass and garnish with a Luxardo cherry.

Pouring a chilled Manhattan cocktail into a glass.

Expert Tips

  • Pick up some good vermouth: there’s no point in wasting nice whiskey with cheap vermouth. Here are a few of the best sweet vermouths without breaking the bank. Look for Carpano Antica Formula, Dolin, Punt E Mes or Noilly Pratt.
  • Always stir with ice, never shake: whiskey cocktails should always be stirred, otherwise, you’ll introduce unwanted oxygen and chips of ice into the drink. The ice will add just enough water to smooth the whiskey without diluting your cocktail.
  • Experiment with different types of bitters and garnishes: Angostura bitters and a Luxardo cherry garnish is the most traditional approach, but I like to switch it up with cherry bitters, orange bitters, Peychaud’s bitters, and an orange peel garnish. I like the subtle twists that add different aromas and flavors.

More Whiskey Cocktails

Enjoy this recipe? If you made this cocktail, please leave a ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ star rating in the recipe card below & a review in the comments!
5 from 2 votes

Manhattan Cocktail Recipe

Servings: 1 cocktail
Prep: 5 minutes
Total: 5 minutes
The Manhattan drink made two different ways—perfectly constructed with bourbon, vermouth, bitters and garnish

Ingredients 

Classic Manhattan

  • 2 ounces American rye or bourbon
  • 3/4-1 ounce sweet vermouth, Carpano Antica Formula, Dolin
  • 2 dashes Aromatic bitters, Angostura, Scrappys
  • Luxardo cherry for garnish

Perfect Manhattan

  • 2 ounces bourbon or rye whiskey
  • 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce dry vermouth
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Luxardo cherry or an orange twist for garnish
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Instructions 

Classic Recipe

  • Combine whiskey, vermouth, and bitters in a mixing glass with ice (pref large chunks).
  • Stir vigorously for 20 seconds and strain into a chilled coupe or Nick and Nora glass.
  • Garnish with a Luxardo cherry.

Perfect Manhattan

  • Combine whiskey, vermouth(s), and bitters in a mixing glass with ice (pref large chunks).
  • Stir vigorously for 20 seconds and strain into a chilled coupe or Nick and Nora glass.
  • Garnish with a Luxardo cherry or an optional twist of orange peel.

Notes

Pick up some good vermouth: there’s no point in wasting nice whiskey with cheap vermouth. Here are a few of the best sweet vermouths without breaking the bank. Look for Carpano Antica Formula, Dolin, Punt E Mes or Noilly Pratt.
Always stir with ice, never shake: whiskey cocktails should always be stirred, otherwise, you’ll introduce unwanted oxygen and chips of ice into the drink. The ice will add just enough water to smooth the whiskey without diluting your cocktail.
Experiment with different types of bitters and garnishes: Angostura bitters and a Luxardo cherry garnish is the most traditional approach, but I like to switch it up with cherry bitters, orange bitters, Peychaud’s bitters, and an orange peel garnish. I like the subtle twists that add different aromas and flavors.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 255kcalCarbohydrates: 4.8gSodium: 98mgSugar: 3g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Cocktail
Cuisine: American
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About Shawn Williams

My name is Shawn, author behind Kitchen Swagger. I'm a food & drink enthusiast bringing you my own simple and delicious restaurant-inspired recipes.

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4 Comments

    1. Just came accross your site, love the recipes and cocktails. I wouldn’t say that the perfect version is less strong than the regular but less sweet. I love Manhattan’s, but always use Rye over Bourbon as it’s spicier and less sweet and prefer prefect over orginial for the same reason. Always with a Luxardo cherry! Superb. I’m drinking this now while I prepare your cast iron lamb chops with cognac butter sauce….what a wounderful night, my wife is happy 🙂 Cheers

  1. 5 stars
    Try substituting Stonebreaker American-Irish whiskey (or other Irish whiskey ) for the rye/bourbon for a smoother “Nine Points Manhattan”, an homage to the Irish working class neighborhood in Manhattan in the mid 1800s – think Gangs of New York.