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Manhattan cocktail

A Manhattan cocktail has been described as the ‘king of drinks’ and should be one of the first drinks that a good barman (whether professional or amateur) learns to make.

It is a mixture of whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters. It is usually served either stirred with ice and then strained into a cocktail glass or on the rocks in a lowball glass; in both instances it is served with a Maraschino cherry.

The ratio of whiskey to vermouth varies according to taste with a 1:1 ratio producing a very sweet drink to a 4:1 drink producing a cocktail with a much greater kick. The International Bartenders Association suggests a mix of 2cl vermouth to 5cl whiskey with one dash of Angostura bitters. At Cooking Index we prefer a bit more of a kick and go for a 3:1 ratio.

The whiskeys used vary from rye to bourbon to Canadian but generally the sweeter north American whiskeys will make a much better Manhattan than European whiskeys.

Some barmen will attempt to leave out the bitters but this usually leaves far too sweet a drink and is not recommended by the cocktail experts at this website.

The origin of the drink’s name is not clear. Some claim it was invented by a Mr Black in a bar on Broadway near Houston Street in Manhattan while others claim that it was a widely drunk cocktail in Manhattan in the 1860s. Others suggest it was invented in the 1870s at the Manhattan Club in New York for a banquet hosted by Jennie Jerome in honour of presidential candidate Samuel J Tilden.

Whatever its origins, the Manhattan is considered one of the classic cocktails in America. Perhaps because of this countless show-off barmen have tried to change and adapt it to put their own mark on the drink. Variations of a Manhattan include:

Dry Manhattan - made with dry vermouth instead of sweet vermouth and served with a lemon twist
Perfect Manhattan - made with equal parts sweet and dry vermouth.
Cuban Manhattan - A Perfect Manhattan made with dark rum instead of whiskey
Brandy Manhattan - is made with brandy rather than whiskey (if made e
Metropolitan Manhattan – made with cognac instead of whiskey (usually at a 3:1 ratio of cognac to vermouth) and a sinful waste of good cognac
Davy Byrne - made with Irish Whiskey
Rob Roy - made with Scotch whisky


6cl rye whiskey
2cl sweet vermoth
One dash Angostura bitters
One Maraschino cherry

Pour whiskey, vermouth and rye into a large glass of ice cubes (not crushed ice). Stir until ice cold and then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the cherry.

Serving Suggestion

Drink more than one!