Recipe – Manhattan

Whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters.[i]

Drinking folklore of the Manhattan cocktail claims the drink originated in the early 1870s at the Manhattan Club in New York City for Lady Randolph Churchill, mother of Winston. The popularity of the drink supposedly spread, and imbibers around the city would order “the Manhattan cocktail” wherever they found themselves for the evening. Although it is likely the cocktail has its origins in the Manhattan Club, Lady Randolph was pregnant in France at the supposed inception of the first Manhattan.

Traditionally, the base liquor for a Manhattan is American rye whiskey, but rye is often substituted by other whiskies—predominately Bourbon. The simplicity of the basic Manhattan lends itself to adaptation and variation. Angostura is the traditional aromatic bitters used, but orange and Peychaud’s bitters are common adaptations or additions. Replacing sweet vermouth with other digestifs is also a regular practice and allows bartenders and drinkers to tailor the classic to his or her tastes. Lemon peel is a common additional garnish, and Alex counts himself among those whom often appreciate a small pour of juice from the cherry jar for a richer color and a slightly sweeter drink.

Jordan’s Manhattan

  • 2 oz. rye whiskey (Woodford Reserve Rye or Old Grand-Dad 114 for a bourbon Manhattan)
  • 1 oz. Punt E Mes (or other sweet vermouth)
  • 2 dashes Angustora Bitters
  • Maraschino Cherry[ii]


Add all ingredients in a mixing glass, add ice, and stir. Strain into a chilled[iii] cocktail glass or coupe. Garnish with cherry (traditionally the stem is left on, Jordan prefers it without).

Alex’s Manhattan

A Rob Roy[iv]

  • 2 oz. Scotch whisky[v] (prefers Cutty Sark)
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 3-4 dashes Angustora Bitters
  • Maraschino Cherry


Add all ingredients in a mixing glass, add ice, and stir. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupe. Garnish with cherry.

[i] Traditionally, bitters are a necessary ingredient for a cocktail, which is differentiated from a Sling, a beverage with two or more ingredients (but not bitters)now commonly referred to as a mixed drink.

[ii] Get the real thing—or better yet, make your own—please don’t use the neon red bleached and corn syrup infused kind.

[iii] To chill a glass you can place them in your freezer shortly before use, but if your freezer looks anything like mine, you might lose glasses this way. Filling the glass with ice before starting to mix your drink is effective, just remember to remove the ice before pouring in the Manhattan.

[iv] Substitute American whiskey for Scotch whisky.

[v] Whiskey vs. Whisky—a rule of thumb for the e is the country of origin. If the country of origin has an e then so does whiskey. However, it’s not hard to find a counter example—Maker’s Mark for example is branded as whisky.


Do you have a favorite Manhattan recipe? Share it with us in the comments below!