Everything You Need to Know About Manhattan Cocktails

The Manhattan cocktail is one of the finest and most popular drinks ever created! A true classic cocktail. This simple drink is easy to prepare and never disappoints. This makes it one of the essential whiskey cocktails every gentleman should know.

Don't have time to read the whole post? Watch our short tutorial.

The Origin of the Manhattan Cocktail

Have you wondered why the Manhattan Cocktail is called the Manhattan? There are many accounts about the origins of the popular Manhattan cocktail. Below are two of the most popular origin stories:

  1. In the mid-1870s, Lady Randolph, mother of Sir Winston Churchill, held a banquet in honor of New York’s governor, Samuel J. Tilden. The story goes that during the party, one of the guests, Dr. Iain Marshall started whipping up the drink for the other guests. Later on, some of them came back requesting the doctor's cocktail. Since no one knew its name, they referred to it as the “Manhattan cocktail” after the Manhattan Club where the banquet had been held. But, by many accounts, Lady Randolph was in France and pregnant at the time of this supposed party, making this version very unlikely.
  2. William F. Mulhall worked at the Hoffman House for over 30 years as a bartender. In a story he wrote in the 1880s, he mentions, “The Manhattan cocktail was invented by a man named Black, who kept a place ten doors below Houston Street on Broadway in the 1860s.” He also claims that it was “probably the most famous drink in the world in its time.” But you have to wonder why such a “famous drink” in the 1860s wasn’t mentioned until the 1880s. Still, this second origin story seems more plausible.

The Classic Manhattan Cocktail 

Go into two bars and order a Manhattan cocktail at each. There is a very high likelihood you’ll get two different drinks. Manhattan cocktails have been around for over a century. Maybe this is why the drink varies from place to place. Today we will share two recipes that are the foundation for most Manhattan cocktail variations.

Main Ingredients


A Manhattan cocktail is traditionally made with American Rye whiskey. However, during Prohibition in the 1920s, the production and sale of liquor in the United States was banned. As a result, people turned to Canadian whiskey. Since then, Canadian whiskey has also been used to make Manhattan cocktails. Some recipes also use bourbon or other types of whiskeys.


Are you wondering what vermouth is? It’s simply wine that’s been sweetened, fortified with some high-proof alcohol, and then aromatized with various herbs. There are two main types of vermouth: sweet and dry. Most Manhattan cocktail recipes call for sweet vermouth.

Ensure you always store your vermouth in the refrigerator, and no longer than a month since the flavors might change after that.


Angostura Aromatic Bitters are the most commonly used bitters in a Manhattan cocktail. Produced in Trinidad since 1824, the recipe remains a secret to date. If you want a lighter, brighter, and more citrus-forward manhattan you can use Regans’ Orange Bitters No. 6

Video Tutorial for Classic Manhattan Recipe


Classic Manhattan Cocktail Recipe

Rye whiskey remains to be the most preferred option. The Rye whiskey lends a much spicier note to the drink, which works nicely with the sweet vermouth to create a more balanced drink


  • 2 ounces of Rye whiskey
  • 1 ounce of Sweet Vermouth
  • 3 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • Orange twist or maraschino cherry

How to mix a Classic Manhattan

  1. Fill cocktail mixing glass about three-quarters full of ice cubes
  2. Add the rye whiskey, vermouth, and bitters 
  3. Stir for 25 seconds (never shake a Manhattan cocktail, it should be cold and clear)
  4. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass (placed in the freezer for about 10 minutes).
  5. Garnish with a twist of orange or a maraschino cherry

Perfect Manhattan Cocktail Recipe

The difference between a classic manhattan and a perfect manhattan; the latter also has dry vermouth. To prepare perfect manhattan use a 50:50 combination of sweet and dry vermouth. The garnish rule; if you use dry vermouth in your recipe garnish with lemon.


  • 2 ounces of rye whiskey
  • 1 ounce of sweet vermouth
  • 1 ounce of dry vermouth
  • 3 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • Lemon twist

How to mix a Perfect Manhattan

  1. Fill cocktail mixing glass about three-quarters full of ice cubes
  2. Add the rye whiskey, sweet and dry vermouth, and Angostura bitters 
  3. Stir for 25 seconds
  4. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
  5. Garnish with a twist of lemon.

Variations of the Manhattan Cocktail

Dry Manhattan 

Substitute the Sweet Vermouth with Dry vermouth. Then garnish with a lemon twist.

Rob Roy

Substitute the Rye whiskey with Scotch. Other than that the recipe is similar to that of the classic Manhattan cocktail.

Southern Comfort Manhattan

Substitute the Rye whiskey with Southern Comfort, sweet vermouth with dry vermouth and garnish with a lemon twist.


Substitute the whiskey with gin and use orange bitters instead of Angostura.

Cuban Manhattan 

Similar to a Perfect Manhattan, but dark rum is used instead of whiskey

Enjoy a Manhattan Cocktail this Summer

Now you know all there is to know about Manhattan cocktails. It’s time to try out the different Manhattan cocktail recipes. There is something for every debonair gentleman.

Also, summer is here! This makes it a great time to enjoy a Manhattan cocktail. Whatever you prefer, serve it on the rocks as you enjoy the warm weather.

Previous: Another classic whiskey cocktail.

Next: Summer Whiskey Cocktail Ideas.


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