The Manhattan Drink: What's In It, How To Make It & More

Posted by Helena Hambrecht on

The Manhattan drink: do we have to say much more about it? Everyone knows this cocktail. It’s a favorite for actors to order in pop culture. Ordering it yourself makes you feel sophisticated, and, best of all, it’s complex and delicious. 

 

The Manhattan has a rich history — it’s one of the oldest cocktails around. However, don’t expect this cocktail to be stuck in the p. Peopleple are still creating their own new spins on the classic cocktail. 

 

Time to learn how to make a Manhattan and its spin-offs.

 

What Is the Manhattan Drink?

The original cocktail of cocktails. The final test for training bartenders. The drink that makes you feel elegant and like you belong when you order it. 

 

The Manhattan. 

 

To be technically considered a Manhattan, your cocktail needs to be made with rye whiskey, though many people use bourbon. There are different styles of this cocktail, but you’ll see that many of the ingredients stay the same. 

 

You never shake a Manhattan; you always stir it carefully. 

 

The History of the Manhattan

The Manhattan drink got its name because it was made in New York City’s Manhattan Club in the 19th century. We don’t know when exactly it was created; many think it happened anywhere between 1870 and 1890. 

 

There are records of the recipe in different places at separate times after the 1870s. At the least, we know that two different versions appeared in O.H. Byron’s The Modern Bartenders’ Guide in 1884. 

 

The first version had these ingredients:

 

  • One pony (28 milliliters) French vermouth
  • One pony of whiskey
  • Three to four dashes of Angostura bitters
  • Three dashes of gum syrup

 

The second version was:

 

  • One wine glass of whiskey
  • One wine glass of Italian vermouth
  • Two dashes of Angostura bitters
  • Two dashes of Curacao 

 

Another written record of the Manhattan cocktail recipe was published in 1891. It was in William Schmidts’ The Flowing Bowl and had this list of ingredients:

 

  • Two dashes of gum 
  • Two dashes of bitters
  • One dash of absinthe
  • 2/3 portion of whiskey
  • 1/3 portion of vermouth 

 

There are also plenty of legends surrounding this drink. The stories have either been proven wrong or are unconfirmed, but they’re still fun! These are the most popular two legends surrounding the Manhattan’s creation.

 

Manhattan Legend Number One

In 1880, Dr. Iain Marshall created the Manhattan cocktail recipe for a party that Lady Randolph Churchill was throwing.

 

That last name, Churchill, may sound familiar. Yes, this is the mother of Winston Churchill. The name supposedly came from the fact that the Churchill party was in the Manhattan Club. 

 

The only problem with this story is that Lady Randolph Churchill was pregnant, so not drinking, and was in England at the time. She also may have been giving birth to Winston Churchill, so she was a little too busy to party.

 

Manhattan Legend Number Two

A book published in 1923 called Valentine’s Manual of New York has a bartender at New York’s Hoffman House claiming that the drink was created by a man named Black, no sign if this is his first or last name, who had a place on Broadway near Houston Street.

 

There’s no way to prove or disprove this story. 

 

How To Make a Manhattan Yourself

It’s funny; not much has changed in terms of style and taste. The modern version has these ingredients:

 

  • Two ounces of an American whiskey like bourbon or rye
  • One ounce of sweet vermouth
  • Two dashes of Angostura bitters
  • One dash of orange bitters
  • Garnish: brandied cherry, orange peel, regular cherry (your choice)
  • Ice (optional)

 

When trying to make the best Manhattan cocktails, the most important part is ensuring you have quality ingredients. 

 

Making a Manhattan is easy. Though some people may choose to do things slightly differently, these are the general steps.  

 

Step One

Fill a martini or cocktail glass with ice. That way, it will chill while you work.

 

Step Two

Fill a mixing glass (decide if you want to do ice or no ice) with two ounces of bourbon or rye whiskey to your glass.

 

Step Three

Add an ounce of sweet vermouth.

 

Step Four

Add two dashes of Angostura bitters.

 

Step Five

Add one dash of orange bitters.

 

Step Six

Stir carefully for thirty seconds. If you choose to mix the liquids in ice, this is where you’ll strain the liquid into the serving glass, leaving the ice behind.

 

Step Seven

Add the garnish of your choosing.

 

Step Eight

Enjoy!

Manhattan Variations and How To Make Them

There are many different spins on this classic cocktail. Here are the most popular.

 

Bourbon Manhattan

It’s made of:

 

  • Two and a half ounces of bourbon whiskey
  • One ounce of sweet vermouth
  • Two to three dashes of aromatic bitters
  • Maraschino cherry or orange peel as a garnish

 

How to make it:

 

  1. Fill a martini glass with ice. It’ll chill while you work.
  2. Add whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters to a mixing glass with a couple of ice cubes in it (or a shaker if you have one). 
  3. Stir or shake gently (this spin-off allows shaking).
  4. Get rid of the ice. Then, strain the liquid into the chilled glass.
  5. Use a cherry or orange peel as a garnish. 

 

Brandy Manhattan 

It’s made of:

 

  • Two ounces of brandy or cognac
  • One ounce of sweet red vermouth
  • Three dashes of Angostura bitters
  • Lemon and Luxardo cherry for garnish (optional)

 

How to make it:

 

  1. Add brandy, sweet vermouth, and bitters to a mixing glass.
  2. Stir gently.
  3. Strain the liquid into the chilled glass.
  4. Use a cocktail cherry or orange peel as a garnish. 

 

Black Manhattan

It’s made of:

 

  • Two ounces of rye whiskey
  • One ounce of Averna Amaro
  • One dash of Angostura bitters
  • One dash of orange bitters
  • Brandied cherry for garnish (optional)

 

How to make it:

 

  1. Fill a glass with ice.
  2. Add the rye whiskey, Averna Amaros, Angostura bitters, and orange bitters. 
  3. Stir gently until it’s cold.
  4. Strain into a chilled glass.
  5. Use a cherry as a garnish. 

 

Rob Roy 

It’s made of:

 

  • Two ounces of Scotch whisky
  • 3/4 ounce of sweet red vermouth
  • Three dashes of Angostura bitters
  • Brandied cherry for a garnish (optional)

 

How to make it:

 

  1. Get a mixing glass with ice.
  2. Add scotch, sweet vermouth, and bitters into the glass.
  3. Stir gently until chilled.
  4. Strain the liquid into a different chilled glass.
  5. Use a cherry or two as a garnish.

 

Brooklyn 

It’s made of:

 

  • Two ounces of rye whiskey
  • One ounce of dry vermouth
  • 1/4 ounce of maraschino liqueur
  • 1/4 ounce of Amer Picon 
  • Luxardo maraschino cherry for a garnish (optional)

 

How to make it:

 

  1. Get a mixing glass with ice.
  2. Add rye whiskey, dry vermouth, maraschino liqueur, and Amer Picon into the glass.
  3. Stir gently until chilled.
  4. Strain the liquid into a different chilled glass.
  5. Use a cherry as a garnish.

 

Martinez 

It’s made of:

 

  • One and a half ounces of gin
  • One and a half ounces of sweet vermouth
  • 1/4 ounce of Luxardo maraschino liqueur
  • Two dashes of Angostura bitters
  • Orange twist for garnish (optional)

 

How to make it:

 

  1. Get a mixing glass with ice.
  2. Add gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur, and bitters into the glass.
  3. Stir gently until cold.
  4. Strain the liquid into a different chilled glass.
  5. Use an orange twist as a garnish.

 

Sweet Manhattan

It’s made of:

 

  • Two ounces of bourbon
  • One ounce of sweet red vermouth
  • A dash of Angostura Bitters
  • Garnish with a maraschino cherry or orange peel (optional)

 

How to make it: 

  1. Fill a mixing glass with ice.
  2. Add bourbon, sweet red vermouth, and Angostura bitters into the glass.
  3. Stir gently.
  4. Strain the liquid into a different chilled glass.
  5. Use a cherry or two as a garnish. 

 

Dry Manhattan

It’s made of:

 

  • Two ounces of rye whiskey
  • One ounce of dry vermouth
  • Two dashes of Angostura bitters
  •  A cherry or lemon twist as a garnish (optional)

 

How to make it:

 

  1. Fill a mixing glass or shaker with ice.
  2. Add the rye whiskey, dry vermouth, and Angostura bitters to the shaker or glass.
  3. Stir or shake gently (this version allows shaking).
  4. Strain the liquid into a clean, chilled glass.
  5. Use a cherry as a garnish.

 

Perfect Manhattan 

It’s made of:

 

  • Two ounces of rye whiskey
  • Half an ounce of dry vermouth
  • Half an ounce of sweet vermouth
  • Two dashes Angostura bitters
  • Brandied cherry as a garnish (optional)

 

How to make it:

 

  1. Get a mixing glass with ice.
  2. Add rye whiskey, the vermouths, and bitters into the glass.
  3. Stir gently until cold.
  4. Strain the liquid into a different chilled glass.
  5. Use a brandied cherry as a garnish.

 

Metropolitan (aka Brandy Manhattan) 

It’s made of:

 

  • Two ounces of brandy
  • One ounce of vermouth
  • Half a teaspoon of simple syrup
  • Two dashes of aromatic bitters

 

How to make it:

 

  1. Get a mixing glass or cocktail shaker with ice.
  2. Add brandy, sweet vermouth, simple syrup, and bitters into the glass/shaker.
  3. Stir or shake gently.
  4. Strain the liquid into a different chilled glass.

 

What Are Angostura Bitters?

You’ll notice that a lot of these recipes have Angostura bitters listed. If you don’t know what they are, you’re probably confused. 

 

Angostura bitters are concentrated bitters that are used in making a variety of cocktails. They’re generally made from a concentrated mix of herbs, spices, and gentian. These flavors can range from herbal to spicy and even fruity.

 

Do You Have To Use Angostura Bitters To Make a Manhattan?

No, you don’t! Any other kind of bitters can substitute for that distinct Manhattan bite. 

 

Haus Is the Perfect Alternative Ingredient for a Manhattan

Depending on what Haus product you choose, you may be able to replace vermouth and Angostura bitters all at once! 

 

An apéritif is a European style of drink. It’s meant to expand your taste buds and encourage hunger before eating. The idea is that it will make you enjoy your meal more.

 

Apéritifs are also relatively bitter and have a low alcohol by volume (ABV). This works before a meal because too much alcohol and sugar can dull the senses. 

 

Spiced Cherry

If you want to skip mixing all those ingredients to make a Manhattan, try Spiced Cherry, which has a similar flavor profile. 

 

If you still want to make the cocktail, you can use this apéritif. It brings flavors of dried cherry, orange peel, grape brandy, and chardonnay grapes to your glass.

 

This apéritif also has plenty of spicy notes to give it the classic Manhattan bite. 

 

New Fashioned

Smooth and spicy, this apéritif is perfect for a Manhattan. The included spices, like cinnamon, ginger, clove, and cinchona bark, make New Fashioned a great replacement for the various ingredients that make a Manhattan a Manhattan. 

 

This apéritif works well with whiskey because of the gentian root, chardonnay grapes, and grape brandy.

 

Want To Make More Cocktails?

Do you love making mixed drinks or have just started and want to learn more? We have a great cocktail kit!

 

The cocktail kit includes our best-selling apéritif flavors, and each bottle makes three drinks. You’ll get Citrus Flower, New Fashioned, Grapefruit Jalapeño, and Lemon Lavender. There’s a book with more than 20 different cocktail recipes. 

 

The Mystery of the Manhattan Drink Has Been Unveiled

That’s everything you need to know about the Manhattan. It’s incredible that one cocktail can have such a rich history and inspire so many people to create their own versions of it.

 

Do you like the original, or does one of the different versions taste better to you?

 

If you prefer to have nights in, now you know how to make multiple versions of this cocktail. Invite some friends over to show off your skills! 

 

Sources:

 

Classic Manhattan Cocktail Recipe | Ted Allen | Food Network 

 

Manhattan Cocktail (Ingredients & Variations!) | A Couple Cooks

 

The secret history of Angostura Bitters | BBC Travel