The Manhattan is a classic cocktail dating back to the latter half of the 19th century. It has a few different origin stories, but most agree that it originated in Manhattan, and that it contained some combination of whiskey, vermouth, and bitters.
Most craft cocktail bars today make it with 2 parts bourbon or rye whiskey, 1 part sweet vermouth, a dash of Angostura bitters, garnished with a Maraschino cherry, although there are endless variations on these basic ingredients. It can be served up (no ice) or on the rocks.
My personal preference is for a rye Manhattan, up. I prefer rye’s tartness to bourbon’s sweetness ( I like bourbon in other contexts), and ice dilutes the drink too much. A good bartender will ask you whether you want it up or on the rocks. If you are not asked your preference and it is served on the rocks, never return to that bar - it is a dive pushing assembly-line commodified drinks.
It is straightforward to make a good Manhattan at home, as long as you use high-quality ingredients. My rye preference is Woodford Reserve or Knob Creek, although there are many excellent ryes out there and any of them will make a good Manhattan. I like to use Cocchi red vermouth (Vermouth di Torino), which has a subtle vanilla note. Dolin red (Vermouth de Chambéry rouge) and Noilly Prat red are also good. I typically use a dash of Angostura bitters and a dash of Fee Brothers orange bitters - the orange bitters adds a subtle citrusy note to the drink. I garnish it with a home-made brandied cherry, but a Maraschino cherry is perfectly acceptable. The New York Times has a good brandied cherry recipe.
Tom Brandt’s Manhattan:
- 2oz rye (preferably Woodford Reserve or Knob Creek)
- 1oz sweet vermouth (preferably Cocchi Vermouth di Torino)
- dash Angostura bitters
- dash Fee Brothers orange bitters
Pour all ingredients into a mixing glass with a few ice cubes. Stir for 30 seconds or so. Strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a brandied cherry.