How to Make a Perfect Manhattan Cocktail
While the martini was made famous by James Bond, the Manhattan is one of the most classic and beloved cocktails. The story goes that it was invested in the Manhattan Club in New York City around 1880. Now, the craft cocktail movement has brought Manhattan’s back into the limelight.
Today’s version is strikingly similar to the original, a mix of whiskey and vermouth, dashed with bitters and garnished with a brandied cherry. The main difference, cocktail purists will tell you, is that the earliest recipes relied on rye whiskey. Many current versions use bourbon instead which offers a smoother flavor profile. Beyond that essential change, many mixologists and home bartenders have been experimenting with the Manhattan, finding innovative ways to vary the cocktail.
The classic Manhattan
While Manhattans might seem intimidating, they are a very simple cocktail to make. Two parts rye or bourbon, one part sweet vermouth, and a dash of bitters. All poured into a cocktail glass with ice and stirred until chilled, and then strained into a martini or coupe glass, garnished with a cherry. It’s my own personal favorite drink and a timeless cocktail. Since there are only three ingredients (plus the garnish!) it is easy to keep everything you need to make it at home. For an affordable and easy-to-find rye, try Bulleit.
The perfect Manhattan
You’ll have to decide for yourself if it lives up to the name, but a Perfect Manhattan is a take on the classic recipe that instead splits the vermouth between sweet and dry. If you like your drinks with only a hint of sweetness, try this version. Vermouth, if you’re unfamiliar with it, is a fortified and aromatized wine. This means its stronger than wine and infused with herbs and spices. Sweet vermouth is, no surprise, sweetened as well. Since it is a base of wine, it will go bad if left opened for too long, but because of being fortified with brandy, it will last longer on your bar than normal wine. If you store your vermouth in the refrigerator, it can last up to two months!
In a Rob Roy, the whiskey used is a Scotch whiskey, providing a smokier, stronger tasting drink. While the classic cocktail calls for American whiskey, during Prohibition, Canadian whiskey was used due to the lack of available American whiskey at the time.
A bit about bitters
Like vermouth, bitters are infused with herbs and spices. But bitters are far more concentrated, so you just use a dash. The most popular bitters are Angostura bitters, though orange bitters are also often used for Manhattan cocktails. Ask any bartender and they will tell you that bitters are an important component of cocktail making. Because a little goes a long way, they are a great value addition to your bar cart. I recommend keeping black walnut bitters on hand in addition to Angostura and orange bitters.
If you like your cocktails on the sweeter side, you can use a bit of the syrup from your cocktail cherries to mix in with your drink. In addition to giving it a cherry-infused sweetness, the syrup also provides a beautiful amber color to the cocktail. I think it’s worth splurging on the really fancy cocktail cherries, like Luxardo cherries, which make a world of difference to your drink.
Stirred, not shaken
Unfortunately, James Bond got it wrong here. For both martinis and Manhattans, stirring the cocktail is preferred to shaking. The reason is that shaking your cocktail with ice dilutes the drink more than stirring, as well as chipping the ice so that some may fall through the strainer and into the glass. If you don’t have a cocktail glass to stir your cocktail in, you can use a tall, round drinking glass. No cocktail stirrer? You can use a metal straw or long necked spoon.
We hope you enjoy yourself today and keep checking back for ongoing tips, guides and great shopping!