Manhattan: Easy 3-Ingredient Classic Cocktail [Ultimate Recipe]

The Manhattan is a classic cocktail featuring whiskey (typically rye or bourbon), sweet red vermouth, and Angostura bitters, stirred with ice, strained, and served neat in a martini glass garnished with a cocktail cherry.

It is known for its deep amber color and smooth texture. The Manhattan offers a balanced mix of strong, sweet, and bitter flavors, making it popular for formal occasions and casual gatherings alike. Its versatility in pairings with various foods, from hearty steaks to rich desserts, and its storied history in American cocktail culture, contribute to its enduring popularity.

Ingredients for Manhattan Cocktail

The classic Manhattan cocktail is an iconic blend of three ingredients: 60 ml (or 2 oz) of whiskey, ideally rye or bourbon, 30 ml (or 1 oz) of sweet red vermouth, and 1-3 dashes of Angostura bitters, tailored to taste. Stir these ingredients with ice to chill the drink. A cocktail cherry, or more, serves as the garnish, adding a touch of sweetness and elegance.

  1. Whiskey: 60 ml (2 oz), preferably rye or bourbon.
  2. Vermouth: 30 ml (1 oz), sweet and red.
  3. Bitters: 1-3 dashes of Angostura, according to taste.
  • Ice: For stirring.
  • Garnish: One or more cocktail cherries.

Ingredient Substitutes for Manhattan Cocktail

Substitutions can personalize your Manhattan cocktail. Consider different types and brands of whiskey (like bourbon or rye) and whisky (e.g., Scottish, Canadian or even Japanese). Swap sweet red vermouth with dry white vermouth for a less sweet, more herbal flavor. Orange or Peychaud’s bitters can replace Angostura for a different aromatic experience. Instead of a cherry, garnish with a lemon twist for a citrusy zing.

  • Whiskey Alternatives: Scotch or other whisky.
  • Vermouth Options: Dry, white vermouth.
  • Bitters Variants: Orange, Peychaud’s bitters.
  • Garnish Substitutes: Lemon twist for a citrus touch.

Ingredient Proportions for Manhattan Cocktail

The ideal Manhattan cocktail boasts a balanced ratio: 2 parts whiskey to 1 part sweet vermouth, perfected with a dash or three of Angostura bitters. This 2:1 whiskey-to-vermouth ratio is classic, but feel free to adjust according to personal taste. Some prefer a boozier edge with more whiskey, while others opt for a sweeter touch with extra vermouth. The key is finding your perfect balance.

  • Classic Ratio: 2 parts whiskey, 1 part sweet vermouth.
  • Bitters: 1-3 dashes of Angostura.
  • Adjustable: Tailor the ratio to personal preference.

Best Ingredients for Manhattan Cocktail

For an exquisite Manhattan, quality ingredients are paramount. Choose a smooth, rich whiskey, preferably rye or bourbon, for depth. A high-quality red, sweet vermouth adds complexity without overpowering. Fresh, aromatic Angostura bitters are essential for that signature spice. Remember, the quality of each component elevates the cocktail’s overall sophistication.

  • Whiskey: Smooth, rich, preferably rye or bourbon.
  • Vermouth: High-quality, ideally red and sweet.
  • Bitters: Fresh, aromatic Angostura.

Flavor Profile of Manhattan Cocktail

The Manhattan cocktail offers a strong, aromatic bitter-sweet flavor. Expect a robust whiskey foundation, complemented by the herbal, sweet vermouth. The Angostura bitters bring a gentle spice, rounding out the drink. Its taste is bold yet balanced, with a smooth, sophisticated finish. This cocktail isn’t just a drink; it’s an experience, appealing to both new and seasoned cocktail enthusiasts.

  • Foundation: Robust whiskey flavor.
  • Complement: Herbal sweetness from vermouth.
  • Spice: Gentle, from Angostura bitters.
  • Finish: Smooth, sophisticated.
  • Appeal: Broad, from novices to connoisseurs.

Tools & Equipment for Manhattan Cocktail

Crafting a Manhattan cocktail requires a mixing glass and a bar spoon for combining ingredients. A strainer is used to pour the cocktail into the glass, retaining the ice. A jigger helps measure the ingredients accurately. Lastly, a cocktail glass, typically a martini or coupe glass, presents this classic drink elegantly.

  1. Mixing Glass: For combining ingredients.
  2. Bar Spoon: Ensures a smooth stir.
  3. Strainer: To pour without ice.
  4. Jigger: For accurate measurements.
  5. Glassware: Martini or coupe glass for serving.

Instructions for Preparation of Manhattan Cocktail

Start by adding 60 ml (2 oz) of whiskey, 30 ml (1 oz) of vermouth, and 1-3 dashes of Angostura bitters into a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir the mixture gently for about 15-30 seconds to chill and dilute slightly. Strain into a chilled martini or coupe glass. Finally, garnish the glass with one or more cocktail cherries. Serve immediately to enjoy the crisp, well-blended flavors of your Manhattan cocktail.

  1. Combine: 2 oz (60 ml) whiskey, 1 oz (30 ml) vermouth, 1-3 dashes bitters in a mixing glass with ice.
  2. Stir: Gently for 15-30 seconds.
  3. Strain: Into a chilled martini or coupe glass.
  4. Garnish: With a cocktail cherry.
  5. Serve: Immediately for best flavor.

Stir or Shake for Manhattan Cocktail

When preparing a Manhattan, always stir, never shake. Stirring preserves the smooth texture and clarity of the cocktail, ensuring a silky mouthfeel. Shaking introduces air, clouding the drink and altering its delicate balance. Stirring for about 15-30 seconds achieves the right dilution and temperature, essential for the Manhattan’s refined character.

  • Method: Always stir, never shake.
  • Reason: Preserves smoothness and clarity.
  • Duration: Stir for about 15-30 seconds.

Ice, Chilling & Dilution for Manhattan Cocktail

Use larger, dense ice cubes for stirring, as they melt slowly, reducing over-dilution. Pre-chill the serving glass to maintain the cocktail’s temperature post-pour. Use a strainer when pouring the drink from the mixing glass into the serving glass to remove the ice, because it is typically served neat in a stemmed cocktail glass (e.g., martini or coupe).

The goal is a drink that is chilled but not watered-down, achieving a balance between cooling and diluting.

  • Ice for Stirring: Large, dense cubes.
  • Ice for Serving: Served neat, without ice.
  • Pre-Chilling: Chill serving glass beforehand.
  • Goal: Chilled drink, minimal dilution.

Scaling a Manhattan Cocktail for a Group

To scale a Manhattan Cocktail for a group, maintain the classic 2:1 whiskey-to-vermouth ratio, adding 1-3 dashes of Angostura bitters per serving. For instance, for 10 servings, you’d use 20 ounces of whiskey and 10 ounces of sweet vermouth, with 10-30 dashes of bitters, depending on taste. Dilution is key for the perfect balance; add about 25% to 30% water to the total volume of your pre-batched mixture.

Store the cocktail mix in a large, sealable glass bottle in the fridge. Serve chilled in stemmed cocktail glasses, ideally garnished with maraschino cherries, ensuring each drink mirrors the quality of an individually stirred Manhattan.

  • Multiply: Ingredients for the number of servings.
    • Spirits: Keep a 2:1 whiskey to vermouth ratio.
    • Bitters: 1-3 dashes of Angostura per serving.
    • Dilution: Add 25%-30% water to the total volume.
  • Storage: Use a large, sealable glass bottle; refrigerate.
  • Serving: Serve chilled in stemmed cocktail glasses, garnished with cherries.
  • Consistency: Ensures even quality for group servings.

Troubleshooting Common Mistakes in Manhattan Cocktail

The biggest mistakes in making a Manhattan include over or under stirring, leading to improper dilution and temperature. Using low-quality ingredients significantly affects taste. Over-pouring vermouth can overpower the whiskey. Avoid shaking the cocktail, as it disrupts the intended texture and clarity. Addressing these errors ensures a perfectly balanced Manhattan.

  • Stirring: Avoid over/under stirring.
  • Ingredients: Use high-quality components.
  • Vermouth: Don’t overpour; maintain balance.
  • Method: Stir, don’t shake.

Presentation of the Manhattan Cocktail

The presentation of a Manhattan cocktail is as vital as its ingredients. The right glassware and garnish not only enhance its visual appeal but also contribute to the overall drinking experience—taste and aroma. An elegantly presented Manhattan signals sophistication and attention to detail, setting the stage for the first sip. It’s the delicate balance between aesthetics and functionality that elevates this classic drink to a higher level of enjoyment.

  • Importance: Enhances visual appeal and drinking experience.
  • Balance: Aesthetics and functionality.

Glassware for Manhattan Cocktail

Traditionally, a Manhattan is served in a martini or coupe glass, which showcases its rich color and allows the aroma to enhance the tasting experience. For a contemporary twist, consider a rocks glass, which gives a more casual feel. The choice of glassware should reflect the drink’s character and the ambiance of the occasion.

  • Classic: Martini or coupe glass.
  • Alternative: Rocks glass for a casual twist.
  • Choice: Reflects drink’s character and occasion.

Garnish for Manhattan Cocktail

A classic Manhattan is garnished with a cocktail cherry, adding a hint of sweetness and an elegant touch.  Alternatively, some zest from an orange, or even grapefruit, would add citrus notes. For an aromatic twist, why not try a sprig of rosemary, or a thin slice of apple for a crisp, autumnal feel. The garnish should complement the cocktail’s flavors and add to its visual appeal.

  • Classic: Cocktail cherry.
  • Alternative: Orange or grapefruit peel for citrus notes.
  • Creative: Rosemary for aroma, apple slice for a crisp feel.
  • Purpose: Complements flavors, enhances visual appeal.

Pro Tip: Garnish the Manhattan either with one single cocktail cherry on its own, or three cherries on a skewer, placed delicately inside the glass or over the glass rim.

Variations & Riffs on the Manhattan Cocktail

The Manhattan’s influence is evident in a diverse array of similar classic cocktails:

Manhattan: Whiskey (rye or bourbon), sweet red vermouth, Angostura bitters.

  1. Rob Roy: Whisky (Scotch) instead of whiskey (rye or bourbon).
  2. Dry Manhattan: Dry instead of sweet vermouth.
  3. Black Manhattan: Averna, dark and herbal, instead of Angostura bitters.
  4. Metropolitan: Brandy instead of whiskey.
  5. Old Fashioned: Whiskey, Angostura bitters, sugar.
  6. Negroni: Gin, vermouth, Campari.
  7. Americano: Soda, vermouth, Campari.
  8. Boulevardier: Whiskey (bourbon), vermouth, Campari.
  9. Brooklyn: Whiskey (rye), dry vermouth, Angostura bitters, maraschino liqueur.
  10. Vieux Carré: Whiskey (rye), vermouth, bitters (Peychaud’s), Cognac, Benedictine


  • The Rob Roy takes the Manhattan to Scotland, using Scotch instead of rye or bourbon, offering a smokier profile.
  • The Dry Manhattan features dry vermouth for a crisper, less sweet taste.
  • The Black Manhattan‘s Averna amaro brings in even more herbal depth than Angostura bitters.
  • The Metropolitan shifts from whiskey to brandy for fruity notes.


  • The Negroni, with gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth, is a bittersweet staple.
  • The Americano, a lighter and effervescent cousin of the Negroni, blends Campari and vermouth with soda water.
  • The Boulevardier, akin to a whiskey Negroni, substitutes gin with bourbon, combined with Campari and sweet vermouth for a rich, deep flavor.


  • The Brooklyn cocktail uses dry vermouth and adds in some maraschino liqueur for a touch of cherry flavor.
  • The Vieux Carré includes Cognac and Benedictine, delivering a rich, potent concoction.


  • The Old Fashioned focuses on whiskey, accented with sugar and bitters.

Experimenting with Your Own Manhattan Cocktail Riff

Creating your own riff on the Manhattan cocktail invites a world of creativity.

Start by experimenting with the base spirit; rye and bourbon whiskey are traditional, but consider using different types of whiskey/whisky (e.g., Japanese whisky), or even aged rum for a unique twist. Experiment with different types of vermouth, such as dry or blanc, to alter the sweetness and herbal notes. Bitters offer another avenue for experimentation; try chocolate, orange, or cherry bitters to add complexity. For a modern touch, infuse your whiskey with flavors like vanilla or coffee. The garnish, too, can be a creative outlet – think beyond the classic cherry to options like a twist of grapefruit peel or a sprig of rosemary.

  • Base Spirit Variations: Try aged rum, Japanese whisky.
  • Vermouth Types: Experiment with dry, blanc vermouth.
  • Bitters Options: Chocolate, orange, cherry bitters.
  • Infusions: Vanilla, coffee flavors in whiskey.
  • Creative Garnishes: Grapefruit peel, rosemary.

Serving Occasions for Manhattan Cocktail

The Manhattan cocktail, with its sophisticated profile, is ideal for a variety of occasions. It’s a classic choice for a formal dinner party, adding an air of elegance. In a more relaxed setting, like a casual get-together or happy hour, it offers a touch of refinement. The Manhattan is also a popular choice for celebratory events, such as anniversaries or milestones, where its timeless appeal and rich flavors are especially appreciated.

It’s a versatile cocktail that adapts well to both intimate gatherings and larger social events.

  • Formal Dinners: Adds elegance and sophistication.
  • Casual Gatherings: Brings refinement to relaxed settings.
  • Celebrations: Ideal for anniversaries, milestones.
  • Versatile: Suits intimate to large social events.

Food Pairings for Manhattan Cocktail

The robust flavors of the Manhattan cocktail pair excellently with a range of foods.

It complements rich, hearty dishes like steak or lamb, where the whiskey’s robustness matches the food’s intensity. For a lighter pairing, try it with aged cheeses or charcuterie, where the cocktail’s complexity enhances the flavors. Seafood dishes, especially those with a slight sweetness like glazed salmon, also pair beautifully. For dessert, a Manhattan alongside chocolate or caramel-based sweets creates a delightful contrast of flavors.

  • Hearty Meals: Steak, lamb.
  • Lighter Fare: Aged cheeses, charcuterie.
  • Seafood: Glazed salmon.
  • Desserts: Chocolate, caramel sweets.
  • Flavor Harmony: Complements and contrasts rich, diverse tastes.

Why is the Cocktail Called a Manhattan?

The Manhattan cocktail, a revered classic in the cocktail world, is named after Manhattan, one of New York City’s most famous boroughs.

Its creation is often attributed to a bartender named Black in the 1860s, who worked on Broadway near Houston Street. Another story, though less substantiated, connects it to the Manhattan Club in 1874, a claim linked to Lady Randolph Churchill’s event for Samuel J. Tilden. However, the credibility of this tale is questioned due to historical inconsistencies.

The drink’s enduring popularity and association with New York’s cocktail culture highlight its historical significance as one of the earliest mixed drinks to feature vermouth, solidifying its iconic status in the world of mixology.

Manhattan Cocktail

Manhattan: Easy 3-Ingredient Cocktail Classic (Ultimate Recipe)

Discover the timeless elegance of the Manhattan cocktail, a visually stunning amber-hued drink with a smooth texture and a perfect balance of strong, sweet, and bitter flavors. Comprising whiskey, sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters, served in a classic martini glass with a cherry garnish, this cocktail is ideal for a range of occasions, pairing splendidly with everything from hearty meals to sophisticated desserts. Its rich history and popularity in American cocktail culture make it a must-try classic.
Total Time 5 minutes
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  • 1 Measuring jigger
  • 1 Mixing glass
  • 1 Bar spoon
  • 1 Strainer
  • 1 Martini glass (or coupe glass)


  • 2 oz Whiskey (preferably rye or bourbon)
  • 1 oz Vermouth (preferably sweet and red)
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters (or other brand with similar taste profile)
  • Cocktail cherry (optional; for garnish)


  • Chill the Glass: Begin by chilling a martini glass.
  • Mix Ingredients: In a mixing glass, combine whiskey, sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters.
  • Add Ice: Fill the mixing glass with large, dense ice cubes.
  • Stir Gently: Stir the mixture smoothly for about 15-30 seconds, ensuring proper chilling and dilution without overdoing it.
  • Strain: Strain the cocktail into the chilled martini glass, leaving the ice behind.
  • Garnish: Decorate the drink with one or more cocktail cherries, delicately placed in the glass, on its rim, or skewered.


Calories: 174kcalCarbohydrates: 2gProtein: 0.02gPotassium: 1mgSugar: 0.3gIron: 0.01mg
Calories: 174kcal
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Cocktail
Keyword: vermouth, whiskey
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