The Best Manhattan Cocktail Recipe

Exploring the Timeless Elegance of the Manhattan Cocktail

For well over a century, the Manhattan cocktail has stood as a paragon of classic mixology, maintaining its popularity with an unwavering charm. Comprising whiskey, sweet vermouth, bitters, and a maraschino cherry garnish, this enduring concoction embodies the essence of the spirit-forward and aromatic cocktail tradition.

The Quintessential 2:1 Cocktail

Unlike the Martini, which has witnessed fluctuating proportions over time, the Manhattan's accepted specifications have remarkably resisted the tides of trends. This enduring 2:1 ratio, with its robust concentration of spirits, has become synonymous with the drink's character.

The Rye vs. Bourbon Debate

A perennial point of contention among cocktail enthusiasts revolves around the choice between rye whiskey and bourbon in a Manhattan. Rye, often hailed as the traditional pick, supposedly echoes the preferences of New Yorkers during the cocktail's inception. However, bourbon, with its unique allure, has also left an indelible mark on this classic.

Rye whiskey introduces spicier and more peppery notes to the mix, while bourbon tends to bring a touch of sweetness. As sweet vermouth already contributes richness and a rounded flavor, drier rye whiskey often plays the role of a counterweight. Yet, the right bourbon can accomplish the same effect. With the broad spectrum within each whiskey style and the unique characteristics of individual bottlings, the choice ultimately boils down to personal taste—use the whiskey you love.

Crafting the Perfect Manhattan


  • Ice
  • 2 ounces Rye or Bourbon Whiskey
  • 1 ounce Carpano Antica Formula (or other sweet vermouth, but CAF is best!)
  • 2 dashes of Angostura bitters (or NVB Black Walnut or Cinnamon Apple or Orange)
  • 1 maraschino cherry (preferably Luxardo), for garnish

An essential detail in perfecting the Manhattan lies in the cherry choice. Luxardo cherries, with their complex, spicy, and almost nutty profile, elevate the drink in a way that standard maraschino cherries simply cannot match. This nuanced addition harmonizes seamlessly with the overall flavor profile of the cocktail.

In conclusion, the Manhattan is not just a cocktail; it's a timeless journey through flavors and history. Its enduring popularity is a testament to the exquisite balance achieved by combining a few simple ingredients in a classic 2:1 ratio. So, whether you prefer the robust kick of rye or the sweeter notes of bourbon, the Manhattan invites you to savor the elegance of a bygone era in every sip. Cheers to the enduring allure of a truly classic cocktail!


Further Explorations of the Manhattan Cocktail*

The Manhattan, a cornerstone in the mixologist's arsenal, has spawned a myriad of inventive variations that add a thrilling twist to the classic template. Dive into the spectrum of possibilities with these notable Manhattan derivatives that have captivated cocktail enthusiasts across time.

Bobby Burns: A Scotch whisky Manhattan deviating from tradition by swapping bitters with the herbal complexity of Benedictine.

Martinez: A potential precursor to the Manhattan, the Martinez merges gin with sweetening from maraschino liqueur, offering a delightful fusion of Martini and Manhattan influences.

Perfect Manhattan: A symphony of sweet and dry vermouth, this rendition explores equilibrium by using equal parts of both. 

Monte Carlo: Infused with a dash of Benedictine, this Manhattan variant introduces a nuanced flavor profile while maintaining the cocktail's essence.

Revolver: A contemporary rebel, the Revolver shakes things up by substituting coffee liqueur for sweet vermouth, bringing a rich and bold twist to the palate.

Rob Roy: Channeling the spirit of Scotland, the Rob Roy embraces a Scotch whisky base to redefine the Manhattan experience.

Waldorf: Elevating sophistication, the Waldorf incorporates an absinthe-rinsed glass, adding a touch of mystique to the classic Manhattan.

Vieux Carré: A NOLA classic, the Vieux Carré orchestrates a dance between rye whiskey and cognac, enhanced by Benedictine and traditional bitters, delivering a complex and captivating symphony of flavors.


Credits: Further Explorations of the Manhattan Cocktail section curated from, written by Dylan Garret, updated 10/17/23