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Best Manhattan Cocktail Recipe

The Manhattan cocktail is a timeless classic in the world of mixology. It’s been an icon of sophistication and flavor for well over a century.

Though the recipe has evolved over the years, it still delights cocktail enthusiasts.

Manhattan Cocktail on the Rocks

Born in the heart of New York City, the Manhattan embodies the spirit of the bustling metropolis. It’s also a testament to the artistry and innovation that define cocktail culture.

But enough talking about it! Let’s get down to how to make the best Manhattan cocktail possible.

What is a Manhattan Cocktail?

The Manhattan is a classic cocktail combining rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. It’s one of the world’s oldest cocktails, dating back to the 1800s.

It takes its name from where it was born, the Manhattan Club in New York.

What’s the Difference Between a Manhattan and an Old-Fashioned?

The biggest difference between these two is that an Old-Fashioned doesn’t contain vermouth. They both include whiskey and bitters.

However, the Manhattan uses sweet vermouth to sweeten the drink. The Old-Fashioned opts for a simple sugar cube or simple syrup instead.

Their garnishes are also different. Old-Fashioneds usually come with an orange twist in the glass. Manhattans stick to Luxardo or maraschino cherries.

Finally, Old-Fashioneds often come “on the rocks” (i.e., with ice in the glass). An authentic Manhattan never comes served over ice.

Manhattan Cocktails on the Rock With Cherries on Top

Ingredients

Including ice and the garnish, you need five ingredients to make this cocktail:

  • Ice cubes – You won’t usually serve Manhattans on ice. However, the shaker needs lots of ice to help chill the drink. Use large cubes, not shaved or crushed ice. If the ice is too small, it’ll melt quickly and water down the drink.
  • Rye whiskey – Rye is the traditional whiskey for Manhattan cocktails. It provides a rich, spicy, woodsy flavor. I like Jack Daniels, but there are plenty of options.
  • Sweet vermouth – Be sure to get sweet vermouth, not dry or white vermouth. The sweet caramel notes smooth out the drink’s harsh edges.
  • Angostura bitters – What makes a Manhattan so delicious is its wonderful balance of flavors. The bitters add a dash of dry bitterness that improves the drink. It helps balance out the whiskey’s spiciness and the vermouth’s sweetness.
  • Maraschino cherries – The cherry is simply a garnish for your drink, but adding it is tradition. Plus, it makes the cocktail look nicer, and who doesn’t love a sweet maraschino cherry to pop in their mouth?

What Whiskey Should I Use?

For a classic Manhattan, use rye whiskey. However, no one says you have to stick to tradition.

Through the years, people have made Manhattans with Canadian whisky and even bourbon. You can use either of those or another type of whiskey altogether.

Bourbon results in a slightly sweeter drink. Rye whiskey yields a dry, almost spicy cocktail. Manhattans made with Canadian whisky are smoother.

Iced Manhattan Cocktail Garnished With Maraschino cherry

How to Make a Manhattan

There are really only two steps to making a good Manhattan:

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1. Combine. You can use a cocktail shaker to combine the ingredients, but remember not to shake it. The Manhattan is a drink best stirred, not shaken.

Fill the cocktail shaker with ice. Then, add the whiskey, sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters. Stir until the drink is nice and cold, about 30 seconds.

2. Strain. Strain the drink into a chilled cocktail glass. (Traditionally, you don’t serve a Manhattan over ice.) Then, garnish with your Maraschino cherry, and enjoy!

Tips for the Best Cocktail

These tips will ensure your drink is perfect:

  • Chill your glass. Want an ice-cold drink that stays that way for longer? Store your glassware in the freezer for at least 30 minutes before mixing the drink.
  • Adjust as you see fit. This is your drink, so tweak the ingredients to suit your preferences. Use less vermouth for a stiffer drink or more for a smoother cocktail.
  • Don’t let the vermouth get warm! Unlike liquor, vermouth doesn’t do well sitting at room temperature. Instead, reseal it and place it in the fridge. It should last for up to 2 months.
  • Stir, don’t shake. Sorry, James Bond, but the Manhattan is definitely a “stirred, not shaken” drink. Remember that even if you put it together in a cocktail shaker.
Top View of Manhattan Cocktail with Cherry

Variations

Typically, classic cocktails don’t need any tweaking. Still, if you want to try something new, here are a few ideas:

  • Have fun with garnishes. Try other garnish options, such as an orange twist or brandied cherry.
  • Sweeten it up. Pour a little of the liquid from the Maraschino cherries into the drink. It’ll sweeten it and give it a slightly fruity flair.
  • Hang it out to dry. Use dry vermouth instead of sweet vermouth. Garnish it with a lemon instead of a cherry.
  • Go wild with whiskeys. You can use whatever whiskey you like best. Also, you can turn the drink into a Revolver by swapping the vermouth for coffee liqueur.
  • Make it “Perfect.For the Perfect Manhattan cocktail, use 1/2 ounce of sweet vermouth and 1/2 ounce of dry vermouth.

Serving Suggestions

Serve your Manhattan in a cocktail glass with a Maraschino cherry garnish. The original Manhattans came with Luxardo cherries instead. Unfortunately, they’re harder to find now.

If you can, use them for a more authentic Manhattan cocktail. Add an orange peel or orange twist garnish, as well.

Because the drink is strong, it’s a sipper, not a shooter. Enjoy it alone or with a selection of appetizers, such as:

  • Smoked meats
  • Cheese plates
  • Fruit
  • Nuts or candied nuts

You can also savor it with your meal. It pairs nicely with a good steak, but avoid serving it with overly spicy foods.

Best Manhattan Cocktail Recipe

Servings

1

servings
Prep time

5

minutes
Calories

127

kcal

A classic Manhattan cocktail never goes out of style! Made with whiskey, vermouth, bitters, and cherries, this recipe stands the test of time.

Ingredients

  • Ice cubes

  • 2 ounces rye whiskey

  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth

  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

  • maraschino cherry, for garnish

Instructions

  • Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour the rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters. Stir for 30 seconds or until well chilled.
  • Strain it into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass. Garnish it with a Maraschino cherry.
  • Serve and enjoy!

Notes

  • For ingredient measurements, 1 ounce of liquor is equivalent to 2 tablespoons.
  • For a perfect ice-cold drink, store your glassware in the freezer before mixing.
  • Adjust ratios to taste preferences. Use less vermouth for a stiffer drink or more for a smoother cocktail.
  • Try other garnish options, such as an orange twist or brandied cherry.
Manhattan Cocktail

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author avatar
NaTaya Hastings
NaTaya Hastings is a food and recipe writer for Good Recipes. She’s an educator, boy mom, dog mom, and whatever-stray-enters-the-yard mom. As a result, she's constantly cooking for both humans and animals.

Luckily, she enjoys it!

Though born, raised, and still living in Alabama, her specialty is NOT down-home Southern cooking. Instead, she loves to experiment with Asian, Mexican, Italian, and other ethnic cuisines. She has two mottos when it comes to cooking. “The more spice, the better!” and “There’s no such thing as too much garlic!”

She’s also pretty good with desserts. Especially the easy, no-bake ones.

Her favorite things are cuddling with her four giant dogs, traveling, reading, writing, and hanging out in nature. She’s also pretty excellent at Dominoes.

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