The Classic Manhattan Cocktail is a Favorite Whiskey Drink

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One of the finest and oldest cocktails, the Manhattan is truly a classic cocktail. It is a simple drink, requires just a few ingredients, and it is one of the essential whiskey cocktails that everyone should know.

As with the Gin Martini, there are many ways to make a Manhattan. Though it is an easy cocktail, there are a number of choices to be made and it all begins with the whiskey.

No matter how you mix up your Manhattan, you will find that it's an ideal drink for any occasion. It is perfect for a dinner party and pairs nicely with a great variety of foods and it's a fantastic drink for a casual night with friends.

What You'll Need

How to Make It

  1. Pour the ingredients into a mixing glass with ice cubes.
  2. Stir well.
  3. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
  4. Garnish with the cherry.

Choose Your Whiskey

The original Manhattan was made with rye whiskey. However, there was a period of time in the 1900s when rye was not readily available or as high quality as the Manhattan requires. During these decades, it became common practice to use a Canadian whiskey. When bourbon began to reclaim headlines in the last decades of the century, that became a popular choice and was the new preferred whiskey for a Manhattan.

Rye whiskey has made a comeback! Today we have a number of great ryes to choose from and we can once again get a taste of the original Manhattan.

That said, ultimately, the choice is yours as the drinker and if you prefer another whiskey in your Manhattan, go with it.

Call Your Whiskey. When ordering a Manhattan at the bar, you may want to 'call' your whiskey of choice. Most bars will have a house whiskey that they regularly use in the cocktail and it could be a rye, bourbon, or Canadian. You can always ask what they use and upgrade if desired.

Be as specific as you like. For instance, you could either ask for a Maker's Mark Manhattan or a Bourbon Manhattan (in this case you will get the house bourbon).

More Tips for Making a Great Manhattan

As you will notice in the variations below, there are a number of ways that the Manhattan can be adapted to your personal taste. We have already discussed the whiskey options, so let's look at the other ingredients.

The Whiskey to Vermouth Ratio. The Manhattan is much like the Martini in that it requires a base spirit (whiskey or gin) with vermouth. The Martini uses dry vermouth while the Manhattan uses sweet vermouth.

This sweeter fortified wine works best with the majority of whiskeys, though if you find the right whiskey, dry vermouth can be used to make a great drink as well. I have found that Woodford Reserve Bourbon makes an excellent Dry Manhattan.

Again, like the Martini, each drinker will have their preferred ratio of whiskey to vermouth. The 4:1 in the recipe above is a good starting point. You may also find that it needs to change depending on the particular whiskey you choose.

Don't Forget the Bitters. Aromatic bitters have long been the preferred accent for the Manhattan and should be considered a required ingredient. Because we use just a few dashes at a time, it can be easy to forget their importance. However, they are the finishing touch that helps bring cocktails like the Manhattan into perfect balance.

There are a number of new bitters available today and you might want to explore their effects on your perfect Manhattan mix. Fee Brothers' Whiskey Barrel Aged, The Bitter Truth's Chocolate, and Bittermen's Xocolatl Mole are all great options for experimentation.

The Cherry. The cherry is the customary garnish for most Manhattans though an orange peel or twist works nicely as well.

If you opt for a cherry, you might think about making your own maraschino cherries because those bright red maraschinos found at the liquor store are not as natural as you may think. In the least, grab real cherries from the produce section whenever you see them.

How Strong Is a Manhattan?

The Manhattan is not a light cocktail because it includes only two alcoholic beverages with just a little water added during preparation. Assuming that an 80 proof whiskey is used, the average Manhattan is approximately 30% ABV (60 proof). It is just slightly weaker than a straight shot of that same whiskey.

Close Variations on the Manhattan

Again, we have a comparison to the Martini here. Just like that drink, you can apply the same 'dry' and 'perfect' monikers to the Manhattan and you have even more choices on the base spirit.

More Variations on the Manhattan

The Manhattan has inspired countless cocktails over the years. As you will see, many share only the whiskey in common with the original recipe. Just as the name 'martini' is popular with fancy vodka and gin cocktails and 'margarita' is a common choice for tequila cocktails, 'manhattan' has become an easy way to name a whiskey cocktail.

  • Big Apple Manhattan - Apple pucker, amaretto, and cranberry are mixed with Wild Turkey for a very loose interpretation on the Manhattan.
  • Bourbon and Blood - Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur is paired with bourbon and vermouth with a hint of tarragon for a truly interesting twist.
  • Grand Manhattan - Grand Marnier and orange juice add a fun citrus twist to the classic Manhattan.
  • Manhattan 101 - Fresh ginger and mint shine in this fascinating Manhattan and the powdered sugar is certainly a unique spin.
  • Mile High Manhattan - Skip the vermouth and pour a vanilla liqueur along with Grand Marnier. It gets really intriguing when you add a little anise to the mix.
  • The Rustic Manhattan - Apple whiskey and raspberry vermouth put an unusual twist on the original recipe and it is fantastic for autumn.