Big City Drink: Meet the Manhattan Cocktail

Ah, in the lovely, flavorful world of cocktails, the Manhattan recipe is about as good as you can get! There’s nothing quite like bellying up to your favorite bar and having a seasoned mixologist whip up a tasty adult beverage that smacks sweetly on your lips, warms up your insides, then raises your spirits for a jolly good time. It’s genuinely like magic when you find a great mixed drink.

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The Queen of Whiskey Cocktails

For those who truly love their whiskey cocktails, the Manhattan is among the top-tier concoctions in their lists. It’s very palate-pleasing, making it a bedrock entry into the larger world of bartender creations. Elegant and equally easy to drink, it’s a staple for high-class rollers and corner bargoers alike.

But why leave yourself to rely solely on the abilities of some random bartender? Like we’ve already said, this isn’t that hard of a drink to make. A Manhattan cocktail recipe is all about finding the best ingredients, the right balance, and a little practice. Let’s take a look at the Manhattan’s creation, legacy, and secrets, so we can enjoy this sublime sipping stuff in style.

History: Big Apple Roots

Ask different people about the origin of the Manhattan cocktail, and you may well get a few different responses. One thing that just about everybody seems to agree upon is that it was invented in New York City, or more specifically, on the island of Manhattan. Even more precisely, a legend has it that it was invented in a place called The Manhattan Club.

But the truth is, we may never really know when, how, and where the Manhattan cocktail was born. One story has it that none other than the mother of famous WWII English Prime Minister Winston Churchill came up with it in the 1880s at a party in the aforementioned Manhattan Club (before he was born, of course!).

Another, more believable tale holds that a bartender at a pub called The Hoffman House credited the Manhattan cocktail to a man known simply as “Black” who lived nearby the establishment. We can say for sure that by 1882, it had been mentioned in a newspaper story. And by 1891, the recipe for a Manhattan cocktail appeared for the first time.

manhattan recipe

The Manhattan Recipe

At its heart, the Manhattan cocktail recipe isn’t a hard one to follow. Its most basic form comes down to three recipes, which define its essence. After that, you look at garnishes and the way it’s prepared. But the fun doesn’t end there, as you will soon see.

  • Prep Time 2 Minutes
  • Cook Time 1 Minutes
  • Total Time 3 Minutes
  • Serves 1 People
  • Calories 170 kcal


  • 2 ounces whiskey, bourbon, or rye
  • 1 ounce dry vermouth
  • 2 dashes of Angostura bitters


  1. Add all ingredients into a cocktail mixer with ice.
  2. Stir for 30-45 seconds — never shake.
  3. Strain into a rocks glass or Martini glass.
  4. Garnish with a Maraschino cherry (optional).
  5. Serve, drink and enjoy!


And if you want to get a little fancier, rub an orange peel on the rim in advance. That was easy, right?

Manhattan Recipe Variations

But like we said, that’s just the baseline Manhattan cocktail. There are many ways to vary the results, with a few tweaks creating a whole new experience. For example, you could add orange bitters to the mix to add an extra bite.

But more fundamental changes to the Manhattan cocktail recipe will find you enjoying a whole lot of different plays on the theme. For example, you can split the vermouth portion of the recipe into one part sweet vermouth, and one part dry. This will make what they call the Perfect Manhattan.

And it can get even more intense? Flip the portions of whiskey and vermouth — in other words, two parts vermouth to one part whiskey. This will have you end up with a much brighter end product called the Reverse Manhattan.

Here’s a couple of super-simple variations to play with. First, make the vermouth part all sweet and splash in Maraschino cherry juice from the jar, and you’ve got a Sweet Manhattan. Or take the baseline recipe and make Scotch the whiskey part of the ingredients, and now you’re drinking a Rob Roy!

By now, you’re starting to get the idea. The Manhattan cocktail is perfect because of its simplicity and openness to tinkering, always ready to add new members to its family. Famous brands like Hennessey will even show you how to do it with cognac. Welcome to the larger world of the Manhattan cocktail recipe!

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Brooklyn native, accent-having, travel lover, wordsmith and bud enthusiast. Versed from the streets of NYC, mixed with some world influence, writer/editor and medical user extraordinaire, JJ is here to tell you like it is and guide you to the finest. Brooklyn's favorite feminine stoner, your neighborhood contributor, wrapping leaves like a bandage and bringing you along for the ride.

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