The Perfect Manhattan Cocktail Recipe – This bold herbaceous cocktail with bitter-sweet undertones, is the perfect boozy beverage for any occasion.

Cocktail in a coupe class with a cherry as garnish.

Why We Love This Manhattan Cocktail Recipe

The classic Manhattan cocktail has truly stood the test of time, and for good reason! This recipe uses just three ingredients to make a flavorful, booze-forward cocktail. The Manhattan cocktail is known for its complexity of flavors. It is strong, but it is meant to be sipped on and enjoyed slowly!

I love that the Manhattan ingredients are minimal and common to have on hand if you are used to making cocktails at home!

This classic cocktail is lovely to serve at a cocktail party while guests are enjoying appetizers!

Manhattan Cocktail in a rocks glass with a lemon rind.

Ingredients You Need

This Manhattan cocktail recipe includes just a handful of ingredients, but each is ideal for making a classic Manhattan that is perfectly seasonal all year long. I tried several variations, and this combination of ingredients is absolutely top-notch. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Bourbon or rye whiskey – Use rye whiskey if you want the most traditional version
  • Sweet vermouth – This adds sweetness, a touch of bitterness, and a strong herbaceous note. You can add a dash of dry vermouth as well for a slightly less sweet cocktail.
  • Angostura bitters – Or “old-fashioned” bitters for an even stronger punch of bitterness that lingers as you sip.
  • Ice – To stir and chill the cocktail in the shaker. Manhattans are not traditionally served over ice, but you can serve it in a lowball glass over a block or ice for variation.
  • Cherry, lemon peel, or orange peel – To garnish the cocktail! If using a cherry, be sure to use a high-quality one like a Luxardo cherry!
Ingredients needed for a manhattan cocktail.

Rye Whiskey vs. Bourbon

So which one should you use? There are a few components of rye whiskey and bourbon that make them different from each other…


  • Bourbon is made up of a mash that has at least 51% corn, and is only called bourbon if it is made in the United States
  • Rye Whiskey is made up of a similar mash, but instead, is at least 51% rye, and the rest of the mash can be made from corn or barley.


  • Bourbon has a sweeter and full-bodied flavor due to the corn mash, which also makes it easier to tolerate for most. It tends to have vanilla or caramel undertones.
  • Rye Whiskey has spicy tones and a drier taste from the rye mash, which lends to its more intense flavor that will develop on your palate as you drink.

Types Of Bourbon

  • Traditional – This is the most common bourbon.
  • High-Rye – Has a large amount of rye and packs more of a kick than the traditional bourbon.
  • High-Wheat – This is the softest bourbon because it has little to no rye.
  • Tennessee Whiskey – Made in Tennessee and it is passed through a charcoal filter before it is aged.

Types of Rye Whiskey

  • American Rye – This whiskey is heavily regulated and usually has the most consistent quality.
  • Canadian Rye – Fewer regulations and usually mostly made with corn mash rather than rye mash.

All that being said, I would opt to use American Rye whiskey for the most traditional Manhattan cocktail recipe! If you use bourbon, you will be making a different cocktail, called a bourbon Manhattan!

Liquid being poured into a cocktail shaker.

How To Choose Your Cocktail Glass

There are many types of glasses that you can use when it comes to making a cocktail. So which ones would work well for this Manhattan recipe?

  • Coupe Glasses – are the most traditional, served chilled without ice
  • Whiskey Glasses – if serving on the rocks
    • Also known as Short Tumbler
    • Lowball
    • Rocks Glass
Cocktail being poured from a shaker into a coupe glass.

How to Make a Manhattan Cocktail

The process of making a cocktail is much easier than you might think, especially this sophisticated cocktail…

This recipe is for an individual cocktail, not multiple drinks.

  1. Add ice to your cocktail shaker or mixing glass.
  2. Pour in the bourbon, sweet vermouth, and bitters.
  3. Stir it all together with a bar spoon – do not shake it – then strain the beverage into a coupe cocktail glass, or into a low ball glass with a large ice cube.
  4. Lastly, you can garnish with a good-quality maraschino cherry, a lemon twist, or an orange rind twist.

Get the Full (Printable) Perfect Manhattan Recipe + Video Below. Cheers and Enjoy Responsibly!

Two manhattans both garnished with cherries.

What is the history behind the Manhattan cocktail?

Like so many old-school beverages, the origin stories of the Manhattan Cocktail are numerous and a little unclear!

The most popular historical tale supposedly originates from a party in New York at a Manhattan Club. The gathering was hosted by Lady Randolph Churchill (mother of Winston Churchill), but after more investigation, this was seen as a myth because Lady Randolph Churchill was pregnant at the time, and she was still in England.

There was a book published in 1923 that gave us a less glamorous explanation, stating the Manhattan Cocktail was created by a well-known bartender in Manhattan. However, this has not been documented anywhere else.

Unfortunately, the Manhattan does not have a clear history, but some would say that the mystery of this cocktail adds to its overall appeal!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between an Old-Fashioned and a Perfect Manhattan?

An Old Fashioned is traditionally made with whiskey as the base (which could be a rye whiskey or a bourbon.) Then bitters and a simple sugar cube. A Manhattan cocktail is made with rye whiskey, traditionally, and then has bitters and sweet vermouth added, instead of the sugar. The sweet vermouth is the difference, offering a Manhattan recipe more depth and intrigue than an Old Fashioned.

Is this cocktail a strong drink?

If you are used to drinking wine or beer, this might be a pretty strong drink for you. Manhattans are meant to sip and savor the flavors over time. If you want a slightly sweeter Manhattan that is easier to drink, add a dash of the cherry juice from the cherries you are garnishing the drink with.

Can I use flavored whiskeys?

You could use flavored whiskey to make Manhattan variations, just make sure it is a higher-quality whiskey. Smoked whiskey and Maple whiskey are good options. Some people prefer to use scotch, which is referred to as a Rob Roy cocktail.

What can I substitute for Vermouth?

If you happen to be out of sweet vermouth and you want to make a Manhattan, you can use port or sweet Madeira if you like. Just know that technically you no longer have a Manhattan cocktail.

Or, you can switch out the sweet vermouth for amaro and you will have a black manhattan!

What’s a good mocktail variation?

The Telegraph has a great mocktail version for you to try!

Manhattan drink in a rocks glass garnished with a lemon rind.

Looking For More Cocktail Recipes? Be Sure to Also Try:

Check the printable recipe card below for the nutrition information including calories, carbohydrates, protein, and sodium percentages.

Perfect Manhattan Cocktail Recipe
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Perfect Manhattan Recipe + Video

Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 7 minutes
The Best Manhattan Cocktail – Bold and sweet, the perfect cocktail for any occasion.
Servings: 1 cocktail


  • 2.5 ounces bourbon or rye whiskey
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth like Antica
  • 2 dashes angostura bitters
  • Garnishes: twist of lemon rind, orange rind, or a maraschini cherry


  • For each Manhattan Cocktail, add ice to a cocktail shaker. Add the bourbon, sweet vermouth, and bitters.
  • Stir with a bar spoon. Do not shake. Then strain into a coupe cocktail glass, or into a low ball glass over a large ice cube.
  • Garnish with a marischino cherry, lemon rind twist, or orange rind twist.



If you happen to be out of sweet vermouth and you want to make a Manhattan, you can use port or sweet Madeira if you like. Just know that technically you no longer have a Manhattan cocktail.


Serving: 1drink, Calories: 190kcal, Carbohydrates: 2g, Protein: 1g, Sodium: 1mg, Potassium: 1mg, Sugar: 1g, Iron: 1mg
Course: Beverage, Drinks
Cuisine: American
Author: Sommer Collier
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