Manhattan Cocktail

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A classic cocktail if there ever was one, the Manhattan is a signature staple in bars and lounges throughout America, and across the globe. Made with whiskey, sweet vermouth, and aromatic bitters, the classic Manhattan cocktail is a favorite of the TalkTales team.

The History Behind The Classic Manhattan Cocktail

There is a lot of good-natured controversy surrounding the creation of the first Manhattan cocktail, although we know for sure that it originated within New York City. The most widely accepted version states that the drink was first made at the Manhattan Club in the mid-1870s. 

The story goes that the drink was invented by Lain Marshall for a banquet hosted by Lady Randolph Churchill, mother of Winston Churchill, in honor of presidential candidate Samuel Tilden. This elegant debut made the cocktail quite popular among fashionable society.

A note on apocryphal history – Lady Randolph was in France at the time and pregnant, so this story is likely untrue.

How To Make A Manhattan Cocktail

Learning to make the perfect Manhattan isn’t incredibly difficult – but it does take a certain amount of practice. As always, choosing high-quality ingredients is the first step to making an excellent drink.

Below we will review the basic steps to making a Manhattan including the materials and ingredients you will need as well as instructions. Then we will go over some possible variations you could try. 


  • 2-ounces bourbon or rye
  • 1-ounce sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • Garnish: brandied cherry


Gather your ingredients and add them in the proper proportions to a chilled mixing glass. Stir the mixture thoroughly to ensure it is evenly mixed. Strain the drink into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish it with a maraschino cherry. Alternately this drink can be served on the rocks in a lowball glass.

Other Ways To Enjoy This Classic Cocktail

Other than simple switches, like using an orange peel twist instead of a cherry garnish, there are a vast number of variations on the classic Manhattan cocktail. We’ve listed a few of our favorite adaptations to give you some inspiration.

The following are other variations on the classic Manhattan:

  • Black Manhattan – replaces vermouth with Averna
  • Blonde Manhattan – made with 2 oz moonshine, 1 oz sweet vermouth, 0.5 oz orange liqueur, and 3 dashes of orange bitters.
  • Brandy Manhattan – made with brandy instead of whiskey, and is very popular in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
  • Cuban Manhattan – a perfect Manhattan (see below) with dark rum as its principal ingredient.
  • Dean Lyder – a twist on the perfect Manhattan, made with orange bitters and zest, giving it a ‘big, bold character’. It is named for Courtney Lyder, dean of UCLA School of Nursing.
  • Dry Manhattan – made with dry vermouth instead of sweet vermouth, usually also replacing the maraschino cherry with a twist in keeping with the overall principle of reducing the cocktail’s sweetness. 
  • Fanciulli – adds the bitter flavors of Fernet-Branca.
  • The Fourth Regiment – a classic (ca. 1889) cocktail that uses a 1:1 ratio of whiskey and vermouth, and uses three dashes of three different bitters – orange bitters, celery bitters, and Peychaud’s Bitters.
  • Metropolitan – similar to a brandy Manhattan, but with a 3-to-1 ratio of brandy to vermouth and a dash of simple syrup.
  • Perfect Manhattan – made with equal parts sweet and dry vermouth.

Rob Roy – made with Scotch whisky.

Bourbon Or Canadian Whiskey?

While rye whiskey is the traditional liquor of choice, other commonly used options include Canadian whisky, bourbon, blended whiskey, and Tennessee whiskey. It is usually stirred and served in a cocktail glass with a cocktail cherry garnish.

Manhattan cocktails made with Bourbon often have notes of vanilla, honey, and toffee that create a rich round taste, while rye whiskey has more of a spicy feel. Because rye whiskey is lean and bright, many people believe that it makes a better cocktail base. 

Do You Love Manhattan Cocktails?

Classic, and variant, Manhattan cocktails are a favorite of liquor enthusiasts around in America and abroad. Are you one of the people who just can’t get enough of this full-bodied barroom staple? We totally understand that feeling, because we are right there with you! Try our recipe to make the best Manhattan you’ve ever tried – right from the comfort of your own home.

This drink doesn’t take any special tools to create, and the ingredients can be found at any liquor and grocery store. This makes the Manhattan one of the easiest cocktails to learn at home. This is particularly true if you’re just beginning to set up your home bar and haven’t filled it out with the various accouterments you would usually see.

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