The Manhattan Cocktail is synonymous with sophistication. With the warmth of whiskey and sweetness of Vermouth, the Manhattan makes the perfect aperitivo to excite your taste buds. It is one of the most recognisable cocktails, that features on almost every cocktail menu.
Simple, classy and delicious, when you’re sipping a Manhattan you feel like you’re going back in time. Even when you’re just sitting on your couch, a well-made Manhattan can make you feel like you’re listening to jazz in a Manhattan bar.
Learning how to make a perfect Manhattan is surprisingly easy, and is a skill that will be much appreciated by your dinner guests and loved ones. Everyone loves a Manhattan thanks to it’s whiskey depth and citrusy flair. Here’s how to make the perfect Manhattan cocktail, with some helpful tips and delicious variations.
Classic Manhattan Cocktail Recipe
Wondering how to make a Manhattan? You’re in luck. It is a simple and quick cocktail to prepare on any occasion. Originating in the late 1800s, the Manhattan is classy, sumptuous and full of flavour. The aftertaste feels like a warming hug - a warmth which was originally created as an ode to the popular Scottish folk icon Rob Roy Manhattan. Although not much is known or spoken about him now, at the time he was a regular feature of New York nightlife where he spent plenty of time at the Waldorf Astoria, where the first Manhattan is said to have been conceived. His version, known as The Rob Roy, fittingly uses Scotch whiskey.
That said, there is much debate over the origins of the Manhattan. According to some, the classic drink was created at the Manhattan Club in New York for Lady Randolph Churchill. Legend has it that the mother of Winston Churchill was holding a reception in New York in 1870 where it is said that the Manhattan was requested. This variation is sometimes considered the original Manhattan, made with Rye Whiskey.
Over time, the Manhattan has had various makeovers. This included during the prohibition when Canadian Club whisky was used in place of rye Whiskey as it was more readily available. While the origins are unclear, and the variations have been vast, what we do know is that the Manhattan has been loved for a very long time.
Check out our Manhattan cocktail guide for more information on its origin and history.
Classic Manhattan Cocktail Ingredients:
- 60ml bourbon or rye
- 30ml sweet vermouth
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 dash orange bitters
For the garnish:
- Square Ice Cube
- Brandied cherry
- Standard lowball cocktail glass or coupe glass
- Mixing spoon
- Add all of the ingredients to a mixing glass filled with ice.
- Stir with a mixing spoon until the cocktail is chilled.
- Strain into a low ball glass filled with large ice cubes or one large ice cube.
- Garnish with a brandied cherry.
Serve in the correct type of glass
The Manhattan can be served strained into a coupe glass, or on the rocks in a lowball glass. The most important thing to note is that you never shake a Manhattan. Ignore James Bond’s catchphrase ‘shaken, not stirred’ for this cocktail - the Manhattan definitely likes to be stirred, not shaken.
Use a sphere or square ice cube
The Manhattan is made to be served on the rocks, and to fully appreciate the cocktail, it is recommended to use a large sphere or square ice cube. This not only keeps the drink chilled, but it melts a lot more slowly than smaller ice cubes. By melting the ice slowly, you ensure that the Manhattan retains its strong flavour and tastes delicious sip after sip.
Stir the ingredients with a spoon
Instead of using the classic cocktail shaker to blend the ingredients in a Manhattan, the drink should be stirred together using a spoon. Shaking or blending your cocktail will dilute the drink and diminish the flavour of Manhattan, whereas using a spoon will gently blend the ingredients.
In his book ‘The Manhattan Cocktail’, Albert Schmid states that “shaking the combination of ingredients produces a drink that is cloudy and foams across the top. Stirring preserves a transparent drink and allows the consumer visual as well as gastronomic pleasure.”
Pop a cherry on top
Luxardo cherries are the firm favourite for adding to your favourite cocktails. Bright and beautiful, their flavour and texture is perfect for a Manhattan. When you’ve poured your drink into the glass of choice, you can pop a cherry on top for the final touch.
Use a whiskey you really love
An incredible whiskey will make or break this cocktail. The Manhattan was designed to elevate and accentuate the beauty of whiskey, so ensure that you use a quality spirit in order to make this drink special.
Manhattan Cocktail variations
The NIO Manhattan
Paying homage to one of the world's most popular classic cocktails, we’ve created a premixed Manhattan cocktail that you can simply pour into a glass. You just can't beat the warm, rich flavours of this Whiskey and Vermouth combination. With an air of sophistication and class surrounding it, the Manhattan is the perfect after-dinner cocktail. Expertly mixed in Milan, Italy like all of our cocktails.
Feeling festive? Why not try try our Christmas in Manhattan Cocktail?
A take on the classic Manhattan cocktail with an enticingly festive aroma, this is sure to remind you of the magic that is Christmas in New York.
The perfect Manhattan is the medium dry version of the cocktail that is favoured by those who love Bourbon and want to dry the Manhattan with a 50/50 mix of sweet and dry vermouth. To sample this variation, you need to use Bourbon whiskey and then add 50% or ½ an ounce of dry vermouth and ½ an ounce of sweet vermouth as opposed to just 1 ounce of sweet. This will give a drier flavour that allows you to taste the bourbon in more detail.
For those who really want to eliminate the sweet flavour and go all out with the dry vermouth, the dry Manhattan will be ideal. To create this variation you simply need to replace the sweet vermouth with dry vermouth and stir as normal. Perhaps hold the cherry depending on how dry their palate really is. If you like dry martinis and prefer something without sweetness, then you will love this.
On the opposite end of the spectrum we have the sweet Manhattan. Characterised by the traditional sweet vermouth, and an additional 5ml of sugar syrup from the jar of maraschino cherries, you’ll find that the sweet Manhattan is the perfect treat for those with a sweet tooth.
If you loved learning about how to create a perfect Manhattan why not discover the cocktails you can create with whiskey like whiskey sours or the classic Old Fashioned cocktail? Plus, explore our full range of premixed cocktails for more inspiration.