Manhattan, A Classic Cocktail Recipe

Published ~ November 17th, 2020 | Updated ~ March 28th, 2021
Author ~ Carl Busch
Tags ~ Rye | Sweet Vermouth |

If you’re looking for a classic whiskey cocktail, look no further than the Manhattan. Traditionally, rye whiskey is the spirit used in this booze-forward drink. But, you can substitute any whiskey you like. The Manhattan is considered, in most circles, to be an aperitif, a before-dinner cocktail to stimulate the appetite.

It took a while for Carl a while to adapt to drinking any classic cocktails, which are more spirit-forward than more modern ones. He said they tasted like gasoline. But, once his taste buds adapted, the Manhattan won a special place on his palate. I’m still learning to drink the whiskey classics.

Manhattan Cocktail Recipe


  • 1 oz Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
  • 2 oz Woodford Reserve Rye
  • 4 Dashes of Bitters
woodford reserve rye whiskey


  1. Combine ingredients into mixing glass
  2. Stir over ice for 60 revelations
  3. Strain into glass
  4. Garnish with Cherry

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Woodford Reserve Rye Whiskey

Woodford Reserve Rye Whiskey

Like with all of the classics, the origin stories are a little...iffy. It’s hard to know exactly when they came about and what exactly was in the original version. Our recipe is what Mittie Helmich calls the Sweet Manhattan in her publication The Ultimate Bar Book. But, if you search, there will be a fair few recipes considered to be the “original.”

So, we picked the one we liked best.

About the Ingredients

The Whiskey

We used Woodford Reserve Rye because we haven’t met a Woodford Reserve that we haven’t liked yet. The rye is a pre-prohibition style whiskey with dominant notes of spice and tobacco. It’s balanced, complex, and delicious.

The Vermouth

There were several options of sweet vermouth available at our favorite liquor store. So, we tried them all. Don’t do anything halfway, right?. The Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth won our favor. It has an excellent flavor profile, and it was the one that paired best with the Woodford Reserve.

The Bitters

Almost every recipe Manhattan recipe will call for Angostura bitters over other brands like Peychauds. They all have slightly different flavors and aromas that will influence your beverage. Angostura is the only thing that remains consistent across recipes; we didn’t mess with a good thing.

The Cherry

I want to talk about Luxardo Cherries for a second. They’re pricey. But they’re worth it. When Carl told me that they were around $20 for a jar, I was skeptical. How can cherries be worth that much? It’s not imperative that you buy them, but if you’re buying good rye and vermouth, then you may as well go for it.

What does a Manhattan taste like?

Out of all of the ingredients in a Manhattan, the rye whiskey shines through as the dominant flavor. A lot of people might think it’s a “girly drink.” I assure you, it is not.

Manhattans are a balanced combination of boozy and smooth, with just a touch of sweetness and herbal characteristics. For how few ingredients are in this cocktail, it’s pleasantly complex.

The Manhattan tastes like a classic, pre-prohibition cocktail. The alcohol flavor is the star of the show, which is different from more modern cocktails that try to hide or downplay the burn and taste of the spirits.

What’s the difference between a manhattan and an old fashioned

Manhattans and Old Fashioneds are pre-prohibition whiskey cocktails. And in reality, they’re pretty similar. The main difference is what sweetens the cocktail. A Manhattan uses sweet vermouth, while an Old Fashioned uses a sugar cube. This makes the Old Fashioned slightly sweeter than the Manhattan.

Old Fashioneds are also usually served in a rocks, or lowball, glass. As the name of the glass suggests, the cocktail is served on the rocks.

Traditionally, Manhattans are served up. They are strained and have no ice. A lot of people, though, choose to drink a Manhattan on the rocks like the Old Fashioned. This, again, comes down to personal preference, but the ice will dilute the drink a bit.

Where did the Manhattan Originate?

If you do a quick search, you will find inconsistent origin information about the Manhattan. Most believe that the drink got its name from the Manhattan Club in New York. This is where the cocktail was supposedly created and where it got its name.

In most accounts, the Manhattan was created for Sir Winston Churchill’s mother, Lady Randolph Churchill. She held a party at the Manhattan Club for presidential Candidate Samuel J. Tilden when Dr. Iain Marshall developed the drink.

What are some variations of the Manhattan?

There are too many variations of the Manhattan cocktail to count. You could probably spend a year hunting them down, and you still wouldn’t scratch the surface. Even the recipe for the classic version of the cocktail itself varies from source to source.

The recipe we prefer is called the Sweet Manhattan in Mittie Hellmich’s Ultimate Bar Book. Just using this book, here are a few variations of the Manhattan cocktail.

Classic Manhattan

  • 2 oz. Whiskey of choice
  • ¾ oz. sweet vermouth
  • Angostura bitters
  • Maraschino cherry garnish

Pefect Manhattan

  • 2 ½ oz. Whiskey of choice
  • ½ oz. Sweet vermouth
  • ½ oz. dry vermouth
  • Lemon twist garnish

Dry Manhattan

  • 2 oz. Whiskey of choice
  • ¾ oz. dry vermouth
  • Angostura bitters
  • Lemon twist garnish

You’ll notice that each recipe calls for vermouth, whiskey, and bitters, and each version uses slightly different whiskey ratios to vermouth. You choose the formula that’s most enjoyable to you.

As mentioned earlier in this post, rye whiskey is the most likely original spirit. Over time, people have used other whiskeys, usually bourbon or Canadian blended, to make this drink.

Some people prefer the sweetness in a bourbon Manhattan. Canadian whiskeys are usually mellower, which takes some of the bite out of the cocktail.

Thank you for checking out our version of the Manhattan. We hope you enjoy your cocktail and you come back for more recipes!

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