Sophisticated Classic Manhattan Cocktail Recipe

Published November 4, 2021
classic manhattan cocktails



  1. Chill a martini glass or coupe.
  2. In a mixing glass, add ice, rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters.
  3. Stir rapidly to chill.
  4. Strain into chilled glass.
  5. Garnish with cocktail cherry.

Variations and Substitutions

The Manhattan recipe is fairly straightforward, manly cocktail with little room for alterations, but there are some adjustments that can be made.

  • Use bourbon in place of rye for a sweeter flavor rather than bite.
  • Different types of whiskey such as Canadian whisky, Tennessee whiskey, and blended whiskey all work well in a Manhattan, too.
  • Try out different combinations of bitters. Add orange or cherry bitters to the existing aromatic bitters. Molasses and walnut as well as toasted almond all add a subtle flavor without fully altering the Manhattan cocktail as well.
  • For a dry Manhattan drink, use dry vermouth instead of sweet vermouth.
  • A perfect Manhattan uses both styles of vermouth in equal parts.
  • Include a dash or two of the cocktail cherry syrup when garnishing to give the Manhattan drink a sweeter touch.


A typical Manhattan drink garnish is a cocktail cherry, but that doesn't mean you can't take a walk on the wild side and shake things up.

  • Add a subtle touch of citrus by using an orange or lemon peel.
  • Make it a not-so-subtle touch of citrus by using a wedge, wheel, or slice.
  • Dehydrated fruit gives a typical Manhattan drink a visual edge.
  • Try different brands of cocktail cherries to find which one works best for you.

About the Manhattan Drink

The Manhattan drink can have its roots traced back as far as the 1870s when it was first invented for a well-known socialite, the mother of Winston Churchill, at a party for a political event. Because the event was successful, the drink became quickly attached to those who attended. The successful and fashionable Manhattan had its popularity rocket seemingly overnight, its name attached to the location of the borough in which the event was held: Manhattan.

It's an all-too incredible and iconic story for the Manhattan that's entirely false, as Lady Randolph was neither in attendance nor drinking as she was pregnant at the time.

So, much like other cocktails, the truth of the Manhattan drink is murky and cryptic. It is a well-supported truth that the cocktail did originate in Manhattan, but the timing and credit vary. Some claim it was in the 1860s, with credit due to a bartender working near Broadway and others say it caught on during Prohibition because of the availability of Canadian whisky. Regardless of the truth, if it can ever be determined, New York City is to credit for this icon.

A Manhattan in Manhattan

The name may not be original, but it's a name that implies wealth, sophistication, and class, much like the borough it's named for. So long as you respect this boozy libation, and enjoy it slowly, the Manhattan drink will treat you well. The borough, on the other hand, might just chew you up.

Sophisticated Classic Manhattan Cocktail Recipe