The Manhattan and Some other Cocktails

I had to follow the Martini last week with the Manhattan this week. When I am teaching the bartending class these two cocktails everyone learns first as I really believe they are the pair that everyone should know whether you like to drink them or not. I personally do not care for either but if I do have a preference it would be the Manhattan as it is more on the sweet side than the martini which is dry , dry , and more dry.

It is mentioned that the Manhattan was first introduced by Winston Churchill’s mother at a banquet held for a presidential candidate back in the 1870’s in New York. This leads me to believe that people may have been drinking this elsewhere a lot earlier than the 1870’s under a different name. However , the drink proved to be a hit at the banquet and people then began ordering the drink by it’s name afterwards because of the Manhattan Club where it was introduced that evening.

The ingredients of the Manhattan are whiskey , sweet vermouth , and a couple of drops of bitters stirred in to take the edge off the sweetness of the drink.

So it goes something like this,

Take your glass shaker and fill with ice.

2 parts Rye Whiskey
1 part Sweet Vermouth
Stir for 10 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Add a couple drops of Angostura Bitters and stir.
Garnish with a cherry.

Of course if it is on the rocks then it is served over ice in an old fashion glass.

If someone ask for a Manhattan here in Canada it is Rye Whiskey that is preferred.

Rob Roy – when the Canadian Whiskey is replaced with Scotch Whiskey.

Dry Manhattan – the sweet vermouth is replaced with dry vermouth and the garnish is a lemon twist. The bitters are not necessary.

Perfect Manhattan – Canadian Whiskey is used and equal portions of sweet and dry vermouth are added and the garnish is the cherry. The bitters are not necessary.

Dry Rob Roy , Perfect Rob Roy – same as Manhattan recipes but with Scotch Whiskey.

In the Southern States where bourbon is king then you might be careful when you order the Manhattan as it might be served with bourbon. Although , in my experience most people will ask for a Bourbon Manhattan if they want bourbon instead of Rye.

While we are on the subject of Rye Whiskey there used to be a drink I would serve quite often called an Old Fashion.

You take an old fashion glass or what is also referred to as a rocks glass.

Take the glass and put in one sugar cube.
Saturate the sugar cube with Angostura Bitters.
Add a bar shot of Rye. ( Or Scotch or bourbon if requested )
Fill with ice.
Top up with soda.
Add lemon wedge , orange slice , and cherry.

Then you have with Whiskey as well your Whiskey Sour.

Fill glass shaker with ice.
Add bar shot of Rye.
Add 2-3 oz Lemon Bar Mix.
Shake and strain in Sour Glass
Garnish with a cherry.

Another popular sour I am finding is an Amaretto Sour. Anything will do , they are made all the same way.

The Manhattan as well as the old fashion and sour denote some sort of status given to the people who drink them. After the Cosmopolitain , the Manhattan was drank frequently on the HBO show ” Sex in the City. ” I myself have rarely served a Manhattan to anyone who looked like they were on their last dollar. Certainly there are places I have worked in Fine Dining where you would have to know how to make one and there are others where the bartender would have to ask what goes into one.

It is a high society drink for sure. What do you think?


  1. F.Y.I. there’s a wonderful red colored bitters from New Orleans that’s even nicer in a manhattan than angostura. The brand name escapes me. Also, you are right about the martini and manhattan often being taught together since they are straight booze plus vermouth… What I think often gets lost in the translation is that a martini’s dry vermouth is measured in drops, whereas a manhattan gets significantly more sweet vermouth.the manhattan when poured in the states is garnished with cherry. Dry manhattan gets an OLIVE…. the perfect gets a twist of lemon.Another trend that I see in the states is a bastardization of the cocktail. Many guests order it very cold and the bartender shakes and shakes and shakes to make it very cold. In fact, what this does is to “BRUISE” the martini/manhattan, something that was frowned upon in the old days….not that I remember those days … 🙂

  2. Mike…great points you make about the differences between martini and manhattans and I have never seen another bitters up this way other than Angostura so that was good to learn too. I think really I have made a perfect manhattan about 5 times ever and a dry one once. I have noticed there is a tendancy to shake everything nowadays too. These two cocktails are only to be stirred not shaken unless the customer request it. Cold just overwhelms the taste buds and the true flavour is concealed.Straight up implies no ice but this way you get ice crystals floating around. They may as well have ordered it on the rocks.Got a Blue Cheese Absolut Vodka Martini last week though so I got a chance to stuff the olives. Hadn’t done that in a while.Thank you for the comment.I have to get you on my blog roll. I thought I had but I don’t.

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