Do you love a good Manhattan cocktail? I do. Manhattans are one of my go-to cocktails when we’re out and about. I’ve been working on my repertoire of classic cocktail recipes, and decided it’s time to learn how to make a great Manhattan at home.
Manhattans were served as early as the 1870s in New York, so I’m almost one hundred and fifty years late to the party. I found guidance on how to make the best Manhattan in this Punch article, which examines how leading bartenders craft their Manhattans.
Here’s the good news: Manhattans seem fancy, but they are truly one of the easiest cocktails to make. You’ll only need three ingredients (plus a cherry garnish). The trick is selecting quality ingredients that play well together.
Once you have those, you’ll be sipping a great Manhattan cocktail in no time. Manhattans should always be stirred, not shaken, so you don’t even need to bust out the cocktail shaker for these. Cheers!
The best Manhattan cocktails are thoughtfully crafted with four simple ingredients that complement each other. You’ll find my preferred ingredients in the recipe below. Don’t forget ice, for stirring!
1) Rye or Bourbon
Rye and bourbon are both types of whiskey, with different compositions. Rye has more spice to it, while bourbon is a little more mellow and sweet. Most bartenders opt for rye, but choose according to your taste buds. Keep in mind that vermouth will temper the fire a bit.
I used Bulleit rye for these cocktails. It’s always a solid choice, and I was so pleased with the results!
2) Sweet Vermouth
Vermouth is wine that is “fortified” (made stronger than usual, with the help of some brandy) and “aromatized” (meaning it’s infused with herbs and spices).
For a classic Manhattan, we want to use “sweet” vermouth, which actually isn’t all that sweet. Sweet vermouths are dark red or brown, not clear. My favorite options are Dolin and Carpano Antica. Dolin is the softer and smoother of the two, which is not to say that it’s boring. It’s also less expensive.
Vermouth storage tip: Vermouth is wine, so it will go bad with time like all wines do (but will keep longer than a regular bottle, thanks to the brandy). Opened bottles of vermouth will keep well in the refrigerator for somewhere between one month to two months.
Wondering how to use up your vermouth before it loses its flavor? Do as the Europeans do, and enjoy vermouth over ice as an apéritif. It’s especially nice with an orange twist.
Angostura bitters are classic and easy to find, and you really can’t go wrong with them. Bitters, like, vermouth, are infused with proprietary herbs and spices. They’re highly concentrated, though—just a couple of dashes add tons of complex flavor.
4) A Cocktail Cherry, For Garnish
If you’re serious about your Manhattans, go ahead and splurge on great cherries. I love Luxardo cherries. They’re far superior to other maraschino cherries and last a long time. Readers have pointed out that these cherries are best stored in a dark, cool cupboard rather than the refrigerator, where they tend to crystallize. You can find Luxardo cherries at well-stocked liquor stores and on Amazon (affiliate link).
Tip: If you want your Manhattan to be on the sweeter side, add a tiny bit of the sweetened cherry liquid from the jar to your mixing glass.
How to Make the Best Manhattan Cocktail
The Manhattan is so easy to make. Here’s how to do it:
- Gather your ingredients, fill a mixing glass with ice, and place a coupe or martini glass nearby.
- Pour the whiskey and vermouth into your mixing glass. Add a couple dashes of bitters.
- Stir, stir, stir.
- Strain the mixture into your drinking glass.
Watch How to Make a Manhattan Cocktail
Looking for more classic cocktails?
Here are a few more holiday-worthy cocktails:
Please let me know how your Manhattan turns out in the comments! I hope it’s as good as you’ve ever had.
Best Manhattan Cocktail
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Total Time: 5 minutes
- Yield: 1 cocktail 1x
- Category: Cocktail
- Method: Stirred
- Cuisine: American
Learn how to make a classic Manhattan cocktail with this simple recipe! Quality ingredients and proper technique are all you need to make the best Manhattan you’ve ever had. Recipe yields 1 cocktail; multiply the ingredients to make more at once (just use a suitably-sized mixing glass).
- Ice, for stirring
- 2 ounces rye or bourbon (I like Bulleit Rye)
- 1 ounce sweet vermouth (I like Dolin or Carpano Antica)
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 Luxardo cherry or other cocktail cherry, for garnish
- Fill a mixing glass a few inches high with ice. Add the whiskey, vermouth and bitters. Stir in a circular motion for about 30 seconds, or until the drink is very cold (if you’d like a drink with less bite, stir longer).
- Strain the liquid into a coupe or martini glass. Garnish with a cocktail cherry. Enjoy.
Recipe adapted from Punch and Jim Meehan via Food & Wine.
Measurement tip: Two ounces is ¼ cup. I like to use this stainless steel jigger (affiliate link) for measuring small amounts of liquid.
Change it up: Though unnecessary, you enjoy a twist of orange or lemon (or both, which is called “rabbit ears”). If preferred, you can serve your Manhattan on the rocks instead of up—ideally use a large ice cube, which melts slowly, rather than multiple small cubes.
Manhattans are the best! Classic proportions here. We just tried Cocchi vermouth & recommend it as a solid option. Not an option, are the Luxardo cherries—we always pop two & a splash of juice into our (rocks) glasses. And, it’s best to store Luxardo cherries in a cool, dry place—even after opening—as refrigeration can (& did, experience is a ruthless teacher) cause the syrup to crystallize. It says all this on the label. Cheers!
Thank you for your comment, Deb!
YES to rye, Carpano Antica & Luxardo cherries, and I’ll echo reader’s comment about storing those opened only in a cool, dark place not called “the refrigerator!” Vya makes a grand alternative to the Antica and do try Angostura’s orange bitters. For the rye, I’ve used Bulleit, but 110-proof Pikesville elevates my Manhattans into the star-spangled ether as does one final touch — a bar spoon of Luxardo maraschino liqueur slipped down the side of the glass!
Thanks for sharing!
Ray C Norris
Yes and I agree with most everything in the article / recipe.
The earliest US whiskey drinks were made with rye because that was the predominate grain at the time. Later corn was available read less expensive so that is why for many decades US whiskey was primarily made with corn. Oddly enough since the cocktail (I say Crocktail) became fashionable again more and more rye became available. Actually signed on to suggest an alternative for that ordinary red vermouth, use Dubonnet. Also use it in your Negroni. It makes for a very tasty drink…. Thanks, Norris
You’re welcome, Ray!
Anna Lisa Diaz
I love your drink recipes. Swoon! Where did you get those amazing coupes and picks? Love!
Thank you! I bought the glasses at Crate and Barrel in 2018 around the holidays, and I think I bought the picks from West Elm a while ago. Hope you can track some down! They are very pretty in person.
LOVE your Manhattan recipe. Manhattans are my favorites, also.
I have Dolin and have used several liquors as the main ingredient.
Recently it has been Makers Mark or Bushmills. I wanted to get the cherries you recommended but decided they were too pricey so I bought Mezzetta instead – also satisfying and lots cheaper!
Since you like Carpano Antica, sub in their Punt e Mes for the sweet vermouth. It’s a blend of sweet and rich body of vermouth and a touch of herbal quinoa bitterness. Notes of red fruit, cocoa, orange peel, cinnamon, and Christmas spices…my favorite!
I agree – Bulleit Rye makes a great Manhattan. Cocchi vermouth is great with that. My favorite though is to make a Manhattan with 3 oz Elijah Craig bourbon and 1 oz of the sweet vermouth from the Matthiasson Winery in Napa – a real treat. (I order directly from the winery online.) Garnished with a Bada Bing cherry. Sometimes, I put in a splash of cherry juice as well….I know – it’s not classic, but it gives the drink a beautiful dark color and a little sweetness.
Excellent and easy! Perfect for a cold winter evening.
Thank you! I’m glad it was just the thing you needed, Caroline.
Manhattans were my beloved late Daddy’s drink. He used Canadian whisky. I prefer Bourbon because it’s smoother. ( I like Evan Williams). I actually make my own bourbon or brandy infused cherries but maraschinos do in a pinch. This is a great cocktail for the holidays, but I’ll mix one up anytime I want to remember my Dad!
Thank you for your review, Terri! I’m glad it was delicious.
Don’t forget the Southern Comfort Manhattan – 3 to 1 or 4 to 1 and made with Good Bourbon. The Southern Comfort adds the sweetness that the cherry has but makes the cherry unneeded in a pinch.
I like to rub the rim of the martini glass with a peel of orange before serving it “up.”
That sounds delicious!
Hi there! This looks so luxurious! Where are the coupes from?
Hi Dimity, I believe I bought them at Crate & Barrel several years ago around the holidays.