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Manhattan: the fantastic recipe for the classic rye whiskey cocktail

Total time: 5 Min
Difficulty: Low
Serves: 1 person
By Cookist

Smooth, sophisticated, and bold, the Manhattan is another delicious classic cocktail everyone should know how to make. Based on rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters, this this drink would date back to 1874 when a bartender at New York's Manhattan Club first made it – hence the name.

The Manhattan is wonderfully complex, with a touch of spice, a hint of sweetness, a dash of bright herbal flavor, and an attractive bitterness. It's similar to the Brooklyn cocktail but bolder and less sweet. The Manhattan is typically served straight up in a coupe or cocktail glass.

It's a strong drink, clocking in around 28 percent alcohol by volume. Manhattans are perfect for sipping, either as a way to unwind after a long day or after a meal as a digestif drink.

Manhattan vs. Old-Fashioned

The Manhattan and the Old-Fashioned are two similar cocktails. A Manhattan is traditionally made with rye whiskey while the Old-Fashioned can be made with rye or bourbon. Manhattans use sweet vermouth to sweeten the cocktail while Old-Fashioneds use sugar. Manhattans are a bit boozier and more complex than Old-Fashioneds, but both cocktails are fantastic!

Manhattan Ingredients

The classic Manhattan is made with rye whiskey. Rye has a spicier, more peppery flavor compared to bourbon, which is sweeter, and more mellow, with vanilla and toast notes. Today, many folks substitute bourbon for rye, but either work in this cocktail, so use whichever spirit you prefer. Mitcher's, Basil Hayden, and High West are popular choices.

Sweet red vermouth adds sweetness, while bitters tie the drink together and help balance the flavors. Cinzano is a widely available red vermouth. You can also use Noilly Prat Rouge, Punt e Mes, or Carpano Antica.

To finish a Manhattan, use a Luxardo cherry as a garnish.

Tips for Making the Best Manhattan Drink

Use a small handful of ice to chill the cocktail.

Stir for about 30 seconds – that should be long enough to chill the Manhattan without watering it down too much. The Manhattan should be stirred, never shaken, and served straight up.

Use good quality rye or bourbon to make your Manhattan – you'll taste the difference.

If you don't have Luxardo cherries, you can garnish your cocktail with an orange or lemon twist. The orange twist is especially lovely with the orange bitters.

Manhattan Variations

Use other base spirits besides rye or bourbon to make a Manhattan. Try using cognac, brandy, Scotch whiskey (to make a Rob Roy), or Irish whisky. You can substitute the sweet red vermouth for an Italian amaro for a more complex flavor, use dry vermouth to make a dry Manhattan, or mix half sweet and half dry vermouth for a Perfect Manhattan. Add a touch of liqueur to the cocktail. Maraschino liqueur turns the Manhattan into a Brooklyn. Coffee liqueur makes it into a Revolver. Use different flavored bitters. Chocolate or coffee bitters work well in this cocktail.


rye whiskey
2 ounces
sweet vermouth
1 ounce
angostura bitters
2 dashes
orange bitters
1 dash
luxardo cherry, for garnish

How To Make a Manhattan Cocktail 

Pour the rye, vermouth, and bitters into a mixing glass.

Add ice and stir for about 30 seconds.

Strain the cocktail into a glass.

Garnish with Luxardo cherry.


Serve your Manhattan in a martini or coupe glass.

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