A lot of classic cocktails are pretty straight forward.
A daiquiri for instance? Is a daiquiri. There are a million variations, but for a straight up, classic daiquiri it’s a simple combination of white rum, lime, and sugar.
A negroni? Gin, Campari, Sweet vermouth.
I always thought that was the case with a Manhattan cocktail as well.
Bourbon, vermouth, bitters – done!
But the more I’ve spent learning about the Manhattan, drinking Manhattans, and making Manhattans in preparation to write this post – the more I’ve realized just how wrong I am.
And in this post, I’m going to teach you about those differences and give you what I think is the best Manhattan cocktail recipe.
What is a Manhattan Cocktail?
There are varying accounts as to the true origin of the Manhattan cocktail. Some say it was invented in the 1860s by a Bartender named Black at a bar in NYC.
A more popular theory suggests that it was made in the 1870s at the Manhattan Club in NYC. It was created at a high profile event, so subsequently people in the know would begin ordering “The Manhattan Cocktail” as in, the drink created at the club.
Whatever the origin, it’s a martini style drink that was created in the 19th century in New York.
Manhattan Cocktail Ingredients
At its core, a Manhattan is one of the most simple classic cocktails out there. It’s a combination of 2 parts whiskey, 1 part vermouth, and a few dashes of bitters.
Seems pretty simple, right?
Well, in theory it is, but in practice I’ve found that finding the perfect Manhattan is a bit of a pandoras box.
Once you open it up, there’s no stopping in the quest to find the perfect variation.
For years, despite being a whiskey drinker – I didn’t love sweet vermouth.
So whenever I had a Manhattan, I didn’t mind it – but it wasn’t my favorite either.
However after years of visiting cocktail bars around the world, I’ve learned that not all vermouths are created equal.
In fact, there are wild differences between brands, and most of my experience was with cheaper vermouths that were a little too sweet for me.
But once the world of vermouths like Carpano Antica Formula and Cocci di Torino were discovered, I’ve learned that these vermouths not only taste very different, but they can completely alter the way a cocktail drinks.
So while I always considered a Manhattan a bourbon and cheap sweet vermouth drink, I’ve discovered a passion for the drink after testing out lots of different combinations of ingredients.
Best Manhattan Cocktail Recipe: How I Prefer My Drink
It’s worth stating, that there is no best variation of the Manhattan or any drink for that matter.
What you like and what I like may be totally different.
But after trying probably two dozen variations (very stringent testing requirements over here) over the last month, I’ve settled on a set of ingredients that makes the best Manhattan cocktail for my taste.
And what is it?
A combination of Knob Creek Rye and Cocci di Torino Vermouth.
While I enjoy a sweet tiki cocktail or daiquiri as much as the next person, I don’t necessarily want a strong all spirits drink to be sweet.
So I’ve found that I prefer rye to bourbon since it’s a bit spicier and less sweet.
Knob Creek has always been my go to Rye for cocktails in the sub $30 range, and it works great in a Manhattan. But it has gotten more expensive lately.
So the current go to for my rye cocktails is Rittenhouse. I’ve talked to countless bartenders around the world that have said the same thing, so you can’t go too far wrong here.
As for the Vermouth, while I love Carpano Antica something about the Cocci Vermouth di Torino just does it for me. It didn’t feel quite as overpowering as some of the other vermouths I tried with it.
So to make my perfect Manhattan cocktail?
Add 2oz Knob Creek rye, 1oz Cocci vermouth di Torino and 3 dashes of Angostura bitters to a mixing glass, stir until well chilled, and strain into a coupe. Garnish with a cocktail cherry.
But what I love about a Manhattan is how simple it is, and how much the ingredients shine through. Use a different vermouth? Or a different bourbon? You’ll have a drastically different cocktail on your hands.
Experimenting with bitters is one of the easiest ways to add a little creativity to your Manhattan. Scrappy’s chocolate bitters, or Dead Rabbit Orinoco Bitters are great substitutes (or additions) to standard angostura.
Whereas, say a negroni? I’ll be honest, you can switch out different vermouths, or different gins, but to me? It largely tastes the same.
Do that in a Manhattan cocktail, however? Game-changing.
It’s worth the experimentation to figure out what your perfect Manhattan cocktail is.
- Mixing Glass
- Bar Spoon
- Hawthorne Strainer
- 2 oz Rye Whiskey We like Knob Creek
- 1 oz Sweet Vermouth We like Cocci Vermouth di Torino
- 3 Dashes Angostura Bitters
- 1 Amarena Cherry For Garnish
- Combine all ingredients into mixing glass
- Stir with ice until well chilled
- Strain into coupe glass
- Garnish with cherry
Other Whiskey Cocktails You May Enjoy
If you’re a fan of a manhattan, here are a few other cocktails you should try as well.