How to make a manhattan

by Meghan on March 9, 2018 47

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This classic Manhattan cocktail is classic for a reason! Rye whiskey, sweet vermouth plus a secret ingredient that gives a little twist on the original drink!

How to make a manhattan

How to make a manhattan

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you purchase the items I recommend through the links I provide, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you. For more info, please see my disclosure policy. Thanks for supporting Fox and Briar!

I only get sick about once a year, but when I do I am OUT. When I first started getting sick and I realized I wouldn’t be able to do my normal blogging work (recipe testing, photography, editing and writing), I thought I would still be able to use my time to be productive. You know, organize my pinterest, read some educational articles, the types of things that are usually on my to do list, but towards the bottom. Do you know what I actually did in my week of sick time?

How to make a manhattan

1. Lay on the couch.

2. Watch Netflix

4. Finish “Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson (love her)

5. Resort to watching old episodes of “Angel” because I ran out of TV shows.

How to make a manhattan

So turns out I was not able to be productive during my sick leave. But luckily Mr. Briar and I are finally on the mend, and what better way to celebrate than with a classic Manhattan cocktail?

How to make a manhattan

Have you ever had a Manhattan? It is one of Mr. Briar’s favorite drinks. The problem with the Manhattan is that it can be really badly-made sometimes. The first time he had one it was terrrrible. Like all things with just a few ingredients, it is important to use high quality ones.

The Manhattan is an acquired taste for some

I think the Manhattan is an acquired taste. When we made a batch for recipe testing purposes (hey, it’s my job, what are you gonna do?) I think it was the first time I actually LIKED a Manhattan. We also stumbled on a little addition that is optional and not a classic ingredient, but will sweeten up the drink a bit if you like that.

This little trick adds sweetness and complexity to your Manhattan

What is the secret ingredient? Cherry juice. Specifically, just a few drops of the syrup from the jar of Luxardo Maraschino cocktail cherries. Don’t get these original Italian cocktail cherries confused with the bright red dye colored American maraschino cherries. Luxardo cherries are sour Marasca cherries preserved in Luxrado Liqueur, which is made of the cherries themselves. Luxardo cherries are chewy, sweet, and taste like actual cherries.

How to make a manhattan

We don’t have any hard numbers for you, but countless hours of observation lead us to believe that the manhattan is now being ordered more than the martini at good cocktail bars. The tricky part is that the martini worked as the Default American Cocktail because it’s so simple. The manhattan, of course, is not so simple: There are four ingredients, not three. And adding a little more or a little less of any of the ingredients changes everything. A good manhattan can be every bit as good as a good martini (as heretical and blasphemous as that may sound to cocktail purists). A bad manhattan will always be much worse.

So, standards must be set — standards for the archetypal manhattan and for ways to beneficially adulterate the archetypal form. Here are five ways to make a manhattan. David Wondrich, Esquire’s longtime drinking correspondent, on the precise way. It involves measuring, stirring, and paying very close attention. The other ways, not so much.

What You’ll Need:

  • rye or bourbon
  • sweet vermouth
  • Angostura bitters
  • mixing glass
  • ice
  • twisted-stem barspoon
  • julep strainer
  • cocktail glass or coupe
  • lemon or cherry

1 — The Right Way

There is a correct way to make a manhattan. It’s mostly a matter of getting your mind right, although there is one physical skill to be mastered. Learn to make a proper manhattan and you will know how to create at least one flawless thing in this world, and the person you’re making it for will know, and respect that about you.

How to make a manhattan

Step One: Assemble Your Ingredients

The earliest unequivocal reference to a manhattan cocktail dates back to September 1882. It describes the drink as “a mixture of whiskey, vermouth and bitters.” Such was the manhattan then, such it is now, such shall it ever be, world without end.

As with any item of scripture, however, there is room for interpretation. These days, rye whiskey gets the nod from cocktail geeks and bourbon from everyone else (save those heretics who call for Canadian). Bourbon appears almost as often as rye does in the old recipes, so they’re both authentic. We find, however, that it’s proof that matters the most. A whiskey in the 90- to 110-proof range makes a better manhattan than an 80- or 86-proof one. Proof being equal, we do prefer rye but will settle happily for bourbon.

The vermouth should be the sweet red kind. The bitters should be Angostura.

Step Two: Prepare Your Glass

Place the glass in the freezer for 30 minutes. We prefer the style known as the coupe or the old-style cocktail glass (pictured below), with its curved-in sides, to the V-shaped martini type, because they don’t spill as easily. Whatever you use, it shouldn’t be larger than 5 or 6 ounces.

How to make a manhattan

Step Three: Measure Your Ingredients

Pour a measured 2 oz whiskey and 1 oz vermouth into a standard pint glass. If you’re using a conical jigger to do the measuring, make sure to fill it all the way to surface tension. Add 2 or 3 dashes bitters — and by dashes we mean good, vigorous squirts, not drops. If the bottle is very full, the squirts should be smaller and you’ll need 5 or 6.

How to make a manhattan

Step Four: Crack Your Ice

To get a stirred drink (see step five) truly cold, you’ve got to break up your ice cubes to increase the surface area in contact with the liquid. Put an ice cube in the (clean) palm of your left hand. Grasp a barspoon by the very end of the handle and snap the bowl against the cube, almost as if you were swinging a golf club. Repeat 4 or 5 times, and then crack and add a few more cubes.

How to make a manhattan

Step Five: Stir

Shaking makes it just as cold, but the drink ends up cloudy and topped with an algaelike layer of foam. Stirring leaves the drink clear and homogenous to the eye and, more importantly, silky and almost oily on the tongue.

The goal is to make the ice revolve smoothly without circling your forearm as if you were mixing cake batter or thrashing the spoon around the ice like a swimmer fighting off a shark attack. Your wrist and fingers are the only things that should move. This is easy if you’re using a stirring rod or even the handle of a barspoon, but far more satisfying if you’ve mastered using the spoon as God intended. The trick to maneuvering the bowl of the spoon through the ice is to trap the shaft between your index and middle fingers, with the top of it resting in the notch between thumb and index. Then you use the middle finger to push it (counterclockwise) halfway around a tight circle and the index to pull it back. A smooth stir is one of the bartender’s subtlest skills. Fifty revolutions at a minimum.

How to make a manhattan

Step Six: Strain

Slide a julep strainer, as the traditional, large perforated spoon used with stirred drinks is known, into the glass. Strain the drink into your chilled glass.

How to make a manhattan

Step Seven: Garnish

The standard maraschino cherry has been a part of the drink since at least 1891. The lemon twist was probably there for another decade before that. In other words, use whichever you like. We prefer the twist because of the fragrant and appetizing slick of lemon oil it leaves on the surface of the drink.

With a knife (old-school) or vegetable peeler, cut a 1 1/2-inch-by-1/2-inch swatch of peel, avoiding the white pith. Hold it skin-down between thumb and index finger over the drink and snap it in half lengthwise. Drop it in or discard, as you prefer.

2 — The Not-Wrong Way

1. Assemble your ingredients.

2. Acquire a glass — from the freezer or not.

3. Into a vessel larger than the glass, place some ice cubes. Also pour in some whiskey. Then half as much sweet vermouth. A couple dashes bitters.

4. Stir with whatever stirring implement you happen to have nearby.

5. Strain into the glass. If necessary, let your fingers be the sieve.

How to make a manhattan

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeye’s fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

Above, Big Apple Corner at 54th Street and Broadway in Manhattan. Google Maps.

Above, John J. Fitz Gerald, from the Aug. 15, 1931, Binghamton (NY) Press, pg. 14.

Listen to Robert Emmerich introduce “The Big Apple,” a hit song from 1937. Music written by Bob and performed by Tommy Dorsey’s Clambake Seven with Bob on piano. Lyrics written by Buddy Bernier and sung by Edythe Wright. Audio provided by Dorothy Emmerich.

Also listen to a 1937 “The Big Apple” song by Ozzie Nelson and his Orchestra. See a 1929 photo of John J. Fitz Gerald and a 1931 photo of John J. Fitz Gerald.

This site is edited by Barry Popik.

What’s a “Perfect Manhattan”? That’s whiskey with a splash of both dry and sweet vermouth. Of course.

http://www.cocktail.com/recipes/p/PerfectManhattan.htm
1 1/2 – 2 oz blended whiskey
1/4 – 1/2 oz sweet vermouth
dash Angostura bitters
dry vermouth
Stir whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters in a large glass with ice. Rinse chilled cocktail glass with dry vermouth (just pour a little in the glass, swirl it around and pour it out). Strain chilled ingredients into cocktail glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry.

(Google)
eye – Drinks – 03.12.98
. Dry white vermouth is used to make the Dry Manhattan, while a combination of dry white and sweet red is called the Perfect Manhattan. .
http://www.eye.net/eye/issue/issue_03.12.98/plus/drinks.html – 20k – Cached – Similar pages

22 August 1946, New York Times, pg. 14 ad:
IMPORTED GAMBAROTTA
VERMOUTH FROM ITALY
This sweet vermouth makes the perfect Manhattan.
(This may not be a “Perfect Manhattan” – ed.)

13 August 1948, Washington Post, pg. 6 ad:
For That Perfect
Manhattan!

2/3 Old Mr. Boston Rocking Chair Straight Whiskey
1/3 Calissano Italian Sweet Vermouth
Dash of Angostura Bitters
Stir with cracked ice, strain and serve with cherry.

2 March 1949, New York Times, pg. 10 ad:
Martino Balbo is sweet vermouth that makes the perfect Manhattan or aperitif.

23 November 1967, Los Angeles Times, pg. I5:
One that is becoming popular, he said, is the perfect manhattan. “That does not mean it is better than other manhattans,” he said. “It means you use equal part of dry and sweet vermouth.”

18 August 1979, Globe and Mail (Toronto), “Would-be bartenders look for the Perfect Manhattan” by Caitlin Kelly, pg. F6:
Even if you never mop a marble bar-top you’ll master the esoteric difference between a Manhattan and a Perfect Manhattan. It’s in the vermouth. . .

17 October 1990, Restaurants & Institutions, pg. 127:
PERFECT MANHATTAN

1 1/2 oz. blended whiskey 1/4 oz. sweet vermouth 1/4 oz. dry vermouth Dash bitters Maraschino cherry Method: Pour all ingredients into mixing glass filled with ice; stir. Strain into cocktail glass. Garnish.

7 April 1991, New York Times, “Bartending Class Mixes Knowledge and Practice” by James Barron, pg. 44:
A regular manhattan has sweet vermouth, she said. Not surprisingly, a dry manhattan has dry vermouth. A perfect manhattan has both.

8 May 1995, Forbes, Bon Vivant, pg. S125:
This time have a Perfect Manhattan, blended whiskey with one-half sweet vermouth and one-half dry vermouth.

8 August 1996, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “The Booze Biz Quiz” by Ellen Futterman, pg. 55:
3. What is the garnish for the perfect Manhattan?
Answers: 3. Lemon twist.

1 November 1998, Playboy, “The Manhattan Project”:
Named after New York’s Manhattan Club, the manhattan – full-bodied and flavorful – is the perfect fall quaff after a summer of gin and tonics. Make it with two ounces of bourbon, half an ounce of sweet vermouth and a dash or two of Angostura bitters, all stirred and strained into a chilled manhattan glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry. (A quarter ounce each of sweet and dry vermouth makes a perfect manhattan.)

1 December 1998, Esquire, “Things a Man Should Know About Drinking”:
The perfect manhattan: two parts bourbon, one part sweet vermouth, bitters, and a splash of cherry juice. Over rocks or not.

25 January 1999, New York Times, Metropolitan Diary by Enid Nemy, pg. B2:
The application for a bartender’s job at the Savoy restaurant on Prince Street asks, “What’s in a perfect Manhattan?”

One recent applicant wrote: “Low-rent apartments, quality public education, people-friendly police, no rats and Barneys back downtown.”

The ingenuous answer didn’t merit a job offer.

“I’ll settle for bourbon with equal parts dry and sweet vermouth,” said Peter Hoffman, the owner.

27 January 1999, Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger, “Cocktail comeback? I’ll take Manhattan” by T. J. Foderaro, pg. 78:
Manhattans generally come in one of two forms – plain or perfect. A perfect Manhattan isn’t necessarily better than any other Manhattan; “perfect” is barspeak for a cocktail that’s made with both sweet and dry vermouth, rather than one or the other.

The standard recipe for a Manhattan is a couple ounces of whiskey, a splash of sweet vermouth and a dash of bitters. A perfect Manhattan is made the same way but with a splash of both sweet and dry vermouth.

5 February 2005, Kitchener-Waterloo Record, “Perfect Manhattan goes down smooth, and gives a zany buzz” by Colin Hunter, pg. C3:
It’s a pretty simple recipe: pour a splash of sweet vermouth over two parts whiskey, and you’ve got yourself a tasty Manhattan.

The Perfect Manhattan, however, can be a trickier concoction, as demonstrated in the crazy cocktail currently being served up by the Galt Little Theatre.

Like a stiff drink, the absurd comedy — with its imaginary characters, dark murder plots and implausible twists — can be a little tough to swallow at first.

But like several stiff drinks, the surreal and dizzying lunacy of the play is a welcome payoff.

Posted by Barry Popik
Food/Drink • (0) Comments • Sunday, June 05, 2005 • Permalink

How to make a manhattan

Summary List Placement

“At its heart, the Manhattan is designed to make a great whiskey shine,” says Heather Wibbels, Chair of the Bourbon Women Board of Directors and mixologist-in-chief at Cocktail Contessa. This magical combination of bourbon or rye whiskey, vermouth, and bitters makes for a smooth, complex, and deeply satisfying libation.

Why does a Manhattan work so well? “The sweet vermouth and the bitters work to help uncover less obvious flavor notes,” explains Wibbels. “Aromatic bitters may elevate baking spice, clove, and licorice notes in a whiskey, or the sweet vermouth will amplify citrus or fruit flavors hiding behind whiskey’s stronger caramel, oak, and grain flavors.”

Like many classic cocktails that have been around since the late 19th century, its origins are widely disputed. While there are rumors of a connection to a frequent patron of New York City’s Manhattan Club — Lady Randolph Churchill (Sir Winston’s mother) — the general consensus is that this drink was created sometime in the 1870’s and likely used rye whiskey.

Regardless of the true origins of the Manhattan, it has become an iconic bar staple that whiskey lovers can’t get enough of.

Ingredients

  • 100-proof bourbon or rye whiskey
  • Sweet vermouth
  • Bitters (Wibbels recommends a combination of cherry, orange, and other aromatic bitters)
  • Ice
  • Orange peel
  • Optional cocktail cherry (like the Luxardo maraschino or Amarena in syrup — never bright red maraschinos)

What else you need

  • Cocktail shaker tin or mixing glass
  • Bar spoon/cocktail stirrer
  • Hawthorne strainer
  • Martini glass or Champagne coupe

How to make a Manhattan

How to make a manhattan

  1. Mix. Into your shaker tin or mixing glass add two parts whiskey, one part vermouth, and bitters to taste. The classic often calls for 2 dashes of Angostura bitters and a dash of orange bitters per cocktail, but you can use a combination of other aromatic bitters as well.
  2. Chill. Add ice to the shaker tin or mixing glass.
  3. Stir. Using the bar spoon, stir until well combined. Do not shake, as this results in a cloudy drink, according to Wibbels.
  4. Strain. Strain into a chilled coupe or martini glass.
  5. Garnish. Express the oils from an orange peel over the cocktail and garnish with the peel and an optional cocktail cherry.

Quick tip: If your Manhattan is too strong for your liking, you can make the cocktail more approachable in one of three ways, says Wibbels:

1. Ask for a lower-proof whiskey. Bourbon and rye vary in their proof — they can go as low as 80 proof and still be considered a bourbon or rye.

2. Have your Manhattan served over ice, aka, on the rocks. This will soften the whiskey as it dilutes.

3. Request a wheated bourbon. In general, wheated bourbons have less bite and spice to them.

Variations on the classic (and how to order them)

How to make a manhattan

“When you order a Manhattan, there are two things you want to communicate when you order, the base whiskey of the cocktail and if you want it up or on the rocks,” says Wibbels. “I always ask what brand of whiskey they use for their Manhattans, and what kind of sweet vermouth. If you prefer rye and they mention bourbon, ask them if they have a standard rye they use for their Manhattans.”

If you want to try something a little different than the classic, consider ordering one of these popular variations, which all have the same garnish of an orange peel and cherry:

  • The perfect Manhattan: This version splits the vermouth between sweet and dry, making the cocktail a touch drier, and a perfect choice for anyone who likes whiskey but finds a classic Manhattan to be too sweet.
  • The black Manhattan: Wibbels’ personal favorite, this version uses Italian amaro instead of vermouth. You’ll want to pick your bitters based on the flavor profile of the amaro, which can vary from herbal to floral, earthy to spicy. “I usually add some sorghum and sassafras bitters, or some chocolate bitters, just to balance out the rich cocoa and coffee notes,” says Wibbels.
  • The reverse Manhattan: This swaps the whiskey and vermouth ratios, giving you a lighter, sweeter, lower-octane cocktail. Wibbels suggests this version to those who want to be able to handle more than a couple of drinks over the course of the evening.
  • The Rob Roy: Use Scotch instead of American whiskey, and pick a more refined bitter, like Peychaud’s. Wibbels advises avoiding overly peated whiskey, as the smoky character can overwhelm the vermouth.

How to make Manhattans for a crowd

To batch-make Manhattans, Wibbels scales her recipe to 2 cups of bourbon, 1 cup of sweet vermouth, 6 dashes aromatic bitters, 4 dashes cherry bitters, 4 dashes orange bitters, and ½ cup water. “You have to add the water to account for the water that gets added as you stir it in a mixing glass [with ice],” says Wibbels.

She adds the mixed cocktail to an empty 750 ml liquor bottle and chills it in the refrigerator for at least four hours before serving. To serve, pour out 3.5 ounces into a chilled coupe or martini glass and garnish with an orange peel and fancy cocktail cherry.

Insider’s takeaway

If you love whiskey, Manhattan cocktails are a great way to explore the full expression of a quality bourbon or rye. With a little tinkering and experimentation, it’s easy to customize this recipe to your exact taste and concoct your own version.

How to make a manhattan

Summary List Placement

“At its heart, the Manhattan is designed to make a great whiskey shine,” says Heather Wibbels, Chair of the Bourbon Women Board of Directors and mixologist-in-chief at Cocktail Contessa. This magical combination of bourbon or rye whiskey, vermouth, and bitters makes for a smooth, complex, and deeply satisfying libation.

Why does a Manhattan work so well? “The sweet vermouth and the bitters work to help uncover less obvious flavor notes,” explains Wibbels. “Aromatic bitters may elevate baking spice, clove, and licorice notes in a whiskey, or the sweet vermouth will amplify citrus or fruit flavors hiding behind whiskey’s stronger caramel, oak, and grain flavors.”

Like many classic cocktails that have been around since the late 19th century, its origins are widely disputed. While there are rumors of a connection to a frequent patron of New York City’s Manhattan Club — Lady Randolph Churchill (Sir Winston’s mother) — the general consensus is that this drink was created sometime in the 1870’s and likely used rye whiskey.

Regardless of the true origins of the Manhattan, it has become an iconic bar staple that whiskey lovers can’t get enough of.

Ingredients

  • 100-proof bourbon or rye whiskey
  • Sweet vermouth
  • Bitters (Wibbels recommends a combination of cherry, orange, and other aromatic bitters)
  • Ice
  • Orange peel
  • Optional cocktail cherry (like the Luxardo maraschino or Amarena in syrup — never bright red maraschinos)

What else you need

  • Cocktail shaker tin or mixing glass
  • Bar spoon/cocktail stirrer
  • Hawthorne strainer
  • Martini glass or Champagne coupe

How to make a Manhattan

How to make a manhattan

  1. Mix. Into your shaker tin or mixing glass add two parts whiskey, one part vermouth, and bitters to taste. The classic often calls for 2 dashes of Angostura bitters and a dash of orange bitters per cocktail, but you can use a combination of other aromatic bitters as well.
  2. Chill. Add ice to the shaker tin or mixing glass.
  3. Stir. Using the bar spoon, stir until well combined. Do not shake, as this results in a cloudy drink, according to Wibbels.
  4. Strain. Strain into a chilled coupe or martini glass.
  5. Garnish. Express the oils from an orange peel over the cocktail and garnish with the peel and an optional cocktail cherry.

Quick tip: If your Manhattan is too strong for your liking, you can make the cocktail more approachable in one of three ways, says Wibbels:

1. Ask for a lower-proof whiskey. Bourbon and rye vary in their proof — they can go as low as 80 proof and still be considered a bourbon or rye.

2. Have your Manhattan served over ice, aka, on the rocks. This will soften the whiskey as it dilutes.

3. Request a wheated bourbon. In general, wheated bourbons have less bite and spice to them.

Variations on the classic (and how to order them)

How to make a manhattan

“When you order a Manhattan, there are two things you want to communicate when you order, the base whiskey of the cocktail and if you want it up or on the rocks,” says Wibbels. “I always ask what brand of whiskey they use for their Manhattans, and what kind of sweet vermouth. If you prefer rye and they mention bourbon, ask them if they have a standard rye they use for their Manhattans.”

If you want to try something a little different than the classic, consider ordering one of these popular variations, which all have the same garnish of an orange peel and cherry:

  • The perfect Manhattan: This version splits the vermouth between sweet and dry, making the cocktail a touch drier, and a perfect choice for anyone who likes whiskey but finds a classic Manhattan to be too sweet.
  • The black Manhattan: Wibbels’ personal favorite, this version uses Italian amaro instead of vermouth. You’ll want to pick your bitters based on the flavor profile of the amaro, which can vary from herbal to floral, earthy to spicy. “I usually add some sorghum and sassafras bitters, or some chocolate bitters, just to balance out the rich cocoa and coffee notes,” says Wibbels.
  • The reverse Manhattan: This swaps the whiskey and vermouth ratios, giving you a lighter, sweeter, lower-octane cocktail. Wibbels suggests this version to those who want to be able to handle more than a couple of drinks over the course of the evening.
  • The Rob Roy: Use Scotch instead of American whiskey, and pick a more refined bitter, like Peychaud’s. Wibbels advises avoiding overly peated whiskey, as the smoky character can overwhelm the vermouth.

How to make Manhattans for a crowd

To batch-make Manhattans, Wibbels scales her recipe to 2 cups of bourbon, 1 cup of sweet vermouth, 6 dashes aromatic bitters, 4 dashes cherry bitters, 4 dashes orange bitters, and ½ cup water. “You have to add the water to account for the water that gets added as you stir it in a mixing glass [with ice],” says Wibbels.

She adds the mixed cocktail to an empty 750 ml liquor bottle and chills it in the refrigerator for at least four hours before serving. To serve, pour out 3.5 ounces into a chilled coupe or martini glass and garnish with an orange peel and fancy cocktail cherry.

Insider’s takeaway

If you love whiskey, Manhattan cocktails are a great way to explore the full expression of a quality bourbon or rye. With a little tinkering and experimentation, it’s easy to customize this recipe to your exact taste and concoct your own version.

How to make a manhattan

We don’t have any hard numbers for you, but countless hours of observation lead us to believe that the manhattan is now being ordered more than the martini at good cocktail bars. The tricky part is that the martini worked as the Default American Cocktail because it’s so simple. The manhattan, of course, is not so simple: There are four ingredients, not three. And adding a little more or a little less of any of the ingredients changes everything. A good manhattan can be every bit as good as a good martini (as heretical and blasphemous as that may sound to cocktail purists). A bad manhattan will always be much worse.

So, standards must be set — standards for the archetypal manhattan and for ways to beneficially adulterate the archetypal form. Here are five ways to make a manhattan. David Wondrich, Esquire’s longtime drinking correspondent, on the precise way. It involves measuring, stirring, and paying very close attention. The other ways, not so much.

What You’ll Need:

  • rye or bourbon
  • sweet vermouth
  • Angostura bitters
  • mixing glass
  • ice
  • twisted-stem barspoon
  • julep strainer
  • cocktail glass or coupe
  • lemon or cherry

1 — The Right Way

There is a correct way to make a manhattan. It’s mostly a matter of getting your mind right, although there is one physical skill to be mastered. Learn to make a proper manhattan and you will know how to create at least one flawless thing in this world, and the person you’re making it for will know, and respect that about you.

How to make a manhattan

Step One: Assemble Your Ingredients

The earliest unequivocal reference to a manhattan cocktail dates back to September 1882. It describes the drink as “a mixture of whiskey, vermouth and bitters.” Such was the manhattan then, such it is now, such shall it ever be, world without end.

As with any item of scripture, however, there is room for interpretation. These days, rye whiskey gets the nod from cocktail geeks and bourbon from everyone else (save those heretics who call for Canadian). Bourbon appears almost as often as rye does in the old recipes, so they’re both authentic. We find, however, that it’s proof that matters the most. A whiskey in the 90- to 110-proof range makes a better manhattan than an 80- or 86-proof one. Proof being equal, we do prefer rye but will settle happily for bourbon.

The vermouth should be the sweet red kind. The bitters should be Angostura.

Step Two: Prepare Your Glass

Place the glass in the freezer for 30 minutes. We prefer the style known as the coupe or the old-style cocktail glass (pictured below), with its curved-in sides, to the V-shaped martini type, because they don’t spill as easily. Whatever you use, it shouldn’t be larger than 5 or 6 ounces.

How to make a manhattan

Step Three: Measure Your Ingredients

Pour a measured 2 oz whiskey and 1 oz vermouth into a standard pint glass. If you’re using a conical jigger to do the measuring, make sure to fill it all the way to surface tension. Add 2 or 3 dashes bitters — and by dashes we mean good, vigorous squirts, not drops. If the bottle is very full, the squirts should be smaller and you’ll need 5 or 6.

How to make a manhattan

Step Four: Crack Your Ice

To get a stirred drink (see step five) truly cold, you’ve got to break up your ice cubes to increase the surface area in contact with the liquid. Put an ice cube in the (clean) palm of your left hand. Grasp a barspoon by the very end of the handle and snap the bowl against the cube, almost as if you were swinging a golf club. Repeat 4 or 5 times, and then crack and add a few more cubes.

How to make a manhattan

Step Five: Stir

Shaking makes it just as cold, but the drink ends up cloudy and topped with an algaelike layer of foam. Stirring leaves the drink clear and homogenous to the eye and, more importantly, silky and almost oily on the tongue.

The goal is to make the ice revolve smoothly without circling your forearm as if you were mixing cake batter or thrashing the spoon around the ice like a swimmer fighting off a shark attack. Your wrist and fingers are the only things that should move. This is easy if you’re using a stirring rod or even the handle of a barspoon, but far more satisfying if you’ve mastered using the spoon as God intended. The trick to maneuvering the bowl of the spoon through the ice is to trap the shaft between your index and middle fingers, with the top of it resting in the notch between thumb and index. Then you use the middle finger to push it (counterclockwise) halfway around a tight circle and the index to pull it back. A smooth stir is one of the bartender’s subtlest skills. Fifty revolutions at a minimum.

How to make a manhattan

Step Six: Strain

Slide a julep strainer, as the traditional, large perforated spoon used with stirred drinks is known, into the glass. Strain the drink into your chilled glass.

How to make a manhattan

Step Seven: Garnish

The standard maraschino cherry has been a part of the drink since at least 1891. The lemon twist was probably there for another decade before that. In other words, use whichever you like. We prefer the twist because of the fragrant and appetizing slick of lemon oil it leaves on the surface of the drink.

With a knife (old-school) or vegetable peeler, cut a 1 1/2-inch-by-1/2-inch swatch of peel, avoiding the white pith. Hold it skin-down between thumb and index finger over the drink and snap it in half lengthwise. Drop it in or discard, as you prefer.

2 — The Not-Wrong Way

1. Assemble your ingredients.

2. Acquire a glass — from the freezer or not.

3. Into a vessel larger than the glass, place some ice cubes. Also pour in some whiskey. Then half as much sweet vermouth. A couple dashes bitters.

4. Stir with whatever stirring implement you happen to have nearby.

5. Strain into the glass. If necessary, let your fingers be the sieve.

How to make a manhattan

How to make a manhattan

Do you love a good Manhattan cocktail? I do. Manhattans are one of my go-to cocktails when we’re out and about. I’ve been working on my repertoire of classic cocktail recipes, and decided it’s time to learn how to make a great Manhattan at home.

Manhattans were served as early as the 1870s in New York, so I’m almost one hundred and fifty years late to the party. I found guidance on how to make the best Manhattan in this Punch article, which examines how leading bartenders craft their Manhattans.

How to make a manhattan

Here’s the good news: Manhattans seem fancy, but they are truly one of the easiest cocktails to make. You’ll only need three ingredients (plus a cherry garnish). The trick is selecting quality ingredients that play well together.

Once you have those, you’ll be sipping a great Manhattan cocktail in no time. Manhattans should always be stirred, not shaken, so you don’t even need to bust out the cocktail shaker for these. Cheers!

How to make a manhattan

Manhattan Ingredients

The best Manhattan cocktails are thoughtfully crafted with four simple ingredients that complement each other. You’ll find my preferred ingredients in the recipe below. Don’t forget ice, for stirring!

1) Rye or Bourbon

Rye and bourbon are both types of whiskey, with different compositions. Rye has more spice to it, while bourbon is a little more mellow and sweet. Most bartenders opt for rye, but choose according to your taste buds. Keep in mind that vermouth will temper the fire a bit.

I used Bulleit rye for these cocktails. It’s always a solid choice, and I was so pleased with the results!

2) Sweet Vermouth

Vermouth is wine that is “fortified” (made stronger than usual, with the help of some brandy) and “aromatized” (meaning it’s infused with herbs and spices). Vermouths are sweetened, too.

For a classic Manhattan, we want to use “sweet” vermouth, which actually isn’t all that sweet. Sweet vermouths are dark red or brown, not clear. My favorite options are Dolin and Carpano Antica. Dolin is the softer and smoother of the two, which is not to say that it’s boring. It’s also less expensive.

Vermouth storage tip: Vermouth is wine, so it will go bad with time like all wines do (but will keep longer than a regular bottle, thanks to the brandy). Opened bottles of vermouth will keep well in the refrigerator for somewhere between one month to two months.

Wondering how to use up your vermouth before it loses its flavor? Do as the Europeans do, and enjoy vermouth over ice as an apéritif. It’s especially nice with an orange twist.

3) Bitters

Angostura bitters are classic and easy to find, and you really can’t go wrong with them. Bitters, like, vermouth, are infused with proprietary herbs and spices. They’re highly concentrated, though—just a couple of dashes add tons of complex flavor.

4) A Cocktail Cherry, For Garnish

If you’re serious about your Manhattans, go ahead and splurge on great cherries. I love Luxardo cherries. They’re far superior to other maraschino cherries and last a long time in the fridge. You can find Luxardo cherries at well-stocked liquor stores and on Amazon (affiliate link).

Tip: If you want your Manhattan to be on the sweeter side, add a tiny bit of the sweetened cherry liquid from the jar to your mixing glass.

How to make a manhattan

How to Make the Best Manhattan Cocktail

The Manhattan is so easy to make. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Gather your ingredients, fill a mixing glass with ice, and place a coupe or martini glass nearby.
  2. Pour the whiskey and vermouth into your mixing glass. Add a couple dashes of bitters.
  3. Stir, stir, stir.
  4. Strain the mixture into your drinking glass.
  5. Enjoy.

Watch How to Make a Manhattan Cocktail

Looking for more classic cocktails?

Here are a few more holiday-worthy cocktails:

Please let me know how your Manhattan turns out in the comments! I hope it’s as good as you’ve ever had.

How to make a manhattan

Best Manhattan Cocktail

  • Author: Cookie and Kate
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 cocktail 1 x
  • Category: Cocktail
  • Method: Stirred
  • Cuisine: American

4.7 from 7 reviews

Learn how to make a classic Manhattan cocktail with this simple recipe! Quality ingredients and proper technique are all you need to make the best Manhattan you’ve ever had. Recipe yields 1 cocktail; multiply the ingredients to make more at once (just use a suitably-sized mixing glass).

Ingredients

  • Ice, for stirring
  • 2 ounces rye or bourbon (I like Bulleit Rye)
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth (I like Dolin or Carpano Antica)
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 Luxardo cherry or other cocktail cherry, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Fill a mixing glass a few inches high with ice. Add the whiskey, vermouth and bitters. Stir in a circular motion for about 30 seconds, or until the drink is very cold (if you’d like a drink with less bite, stir longer).
  2. Strain the liquid into a coupe or martini glass. Garnish with a cocktail cherry. Enjoy.

Notes

Measurement tip: Two ounces is ¼ cup. I like to use this stainless steel jigger (affiliate link) for measuring small amounts of liquid.

Change it up: Though unnecessary, you enjoy a twist of orange or lemon (or both, which is called “rabbit ears”). If preferred, you can serve your Manhattan on the rocks instead of up—ideally use a large ice cube, which melts slowly, rather than multiple small cubes.

How to make a manhattan

All hail the almighty Manhattan. As iconic as it is potent, the whiskey cocktail, which is believed to have first been mixed in New York City in the late 1800s, has stood the test of time. If you’re looking to master a classic that will impress your friends as well as get them a nice buzz, the Manhattan is your starting line.

Like many old-school classics, the drink consists of just three ingredients—whiskey, vermouth and bitters, as well as a garnish of cherry or lemon peel. Despite its simplicity, a great debate rages on about the precise method and specific ingredients needed to make a proper Manhattan. But whether you’re a traditionalist or a tinkerer, there are some generally agreed upon dos and don’ts to keep in mind when mixing a Manhattan.

DO: Have the right tools

The Manhattan doesn’t require anything fancy, but you will want to make sure to have a few key tools for best results: a mixing glass, a proper bar spoon, a jigger and a strainer. Don’t forget your favorite cocktail glass; a coupe works nicely.

DON’T: Overthink your whiskey choice

Many insist American rye is the only spirit that will do; this traditional choice offers a drier and slightly spicier taste. However, many enjoy using bourbon to get a rounder, slightly sweeter drink.

DO: Invest in the good stuff

No matter what whiskey you decide to use, make sure it’s high-quality (or at least not bottom shelf). The Manhattan is meant to showcase and elevate the whiskey, so choose wisely because this drink doesn’t have much to hide behind to cover up bad liquor.

DON’T: Buy the wrong vermouth

Well, there’s no wrong vermouth (to each their own), but it’s generally recommended that you use sweet red vermouth in this cocktail. If you’re going for the “perfect” Manhattan, you’ll need to use half sweet and half dry vermouth. In terms of which brand to buy, it’s smart to do a little research about what may pair nicely with your liquor choice (for example, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino pairs well with Woodford Reserve) or make it a goal to experiment over time to see which mashup you like best.

DO: Opt for Angostura bitters

With notes of tamarind and cinnamon, this tried-and-true aromatic bitter adds warmth and spice to the drink without overwhelming the other ingredients. There are others, to be sure, but Angostura is always a safe bet here.

DON’T: Go overboard on the ratio

The general guideline is two parts whiskey to one part vermouth with two to three dashes of bitters. You can go up to three parts to one and add a couple more dashes, at your own risk, and no one will judge you . too much.

DON’T: Shake the cocktail

Repeat after me: A Manhattan must be stirred, not shaken. While shaking gets the drink cold like stirring, it leaves the concoction a cloudy mess. It’s the worst mistake you can make with this drink. The best method is to stir the drink with a bar spoon, leisurely, for at least 20 to 25 rotations.

DO: Garnish how you like

Once you stir the mixture with ice and strain it into your glass, don’t forget the garnish. Use either a cherry or lemon peel. Some people use both. It’s up to you, bartender.

DON’T: Use a processed maraschino cherry

A lot of Manhattan recipes call for a maraschino cherry—the waxy, unusually pink ones you find in Shirley Temples or a bad drink at a dive bar. These cherries have been processed with chemicals like food coloring and corn syrup and are just plain gross. The last thing you want to do is plop one of these into your beautifully crafted drink. You’ll find a much better choice in deliciously luxe deep red Luxardo Italian cherries.

DON’T: Imbibe too quickly

The Manhattan is meant to be sipped slowly and savored. Let this boozy drink’s complexities soak in, and make sure to take your time enjoying your creation.

DO: Make it your own

This cocktail’s classic formula has been played with for more than 130 years. Master it in its classic form, or mix it up with new techniques and flavors. Either way, everyone should find their own ideal Manhattan.