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). Vermouths are sweetened, too.
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 in the fridge. 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.
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.
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.