How to Make the Perfect Manhattan

This classic whiskey cocktail isn’t as tough to make as you may think!

A Manhattan is on almost every cocktail menu in the world, and for good reason! It’s a great drink for whiskey-lovers and non-whiskey lovers alike. The sweetness of the vermouth plays beautifully with smoky notes of the bourbon. Finished off with a cherry and you’ve got the perfect drink for a night out or a night in. To celebrate this delicious drink, we’ve put together a handy guide on not only how to make this classic cocktail, but everything you need to know about adapting a traditional Manhattan recipe to match your flavor profile. We’ll cheers to that! 

Where Did the Manhattan Come From?

If the name didn’t give it away, the Manhattan was first invented in Manhattan! More specifically, the whiskey cocktail was invented at the Manhattan Club in New York City by Dr. Iain Marshall. This delicious drink was first sipped in the 1870’s, and has been lovingly made ever since!

How to Make a Classic Manhattan

To make a ‘classic’ Manhattan, follow these simple steps. Again, each bartender will have their own variation of this classic cocktail, but this recipe is a great starting place to learn to make your very own Manhattan.

What you’ll need:

  • Bourbon or Rye, depending on what you prefer
  • Angosta bitters
  • A cherry for garnish
  • Sweet vermouth

To begin:

  1. Start off by putting four ice cubes in a short or rocks class. Hold the glass by the bottom and swirl the ice cubes around inside the glass until condensation starts to form on the glass. Dump the ice in the sink. Traditionally, a Manhattan is served in a cocktail glass (more commonly known as a martini glass). Nowadays, it is just as common to be served a Manhattan in a short or rocks glass.
  2. If you own whiskey rocks or whiskey bullets, remove them from the freezer and add them to the glass. If you don’t own whiskey rocks or whiskey bullets, fill the glass 2/3 of the way full with new ice cubes (not the old ones! Those have already begun to melt from the warmth of your hand) in your glass. If you have the time, place a few glasses in the fridge about half an hour before you make the drink. This will make the glass perfectly chilled for when it’s time to start sipping!
  3. Using a measuring cup or a one ounce shot glass, measure two and a half ounces of bourbon (we suggest Maker’s Mark or Four Roses) and pour it into the glass. Traditionally rye is used in a classic Manhattan, but the bourbon adds a nice sweet and smoky note.
  4. Measure half an ounce of sweet vermouth and add it to the mix. If you’re not one for sweetness, try adding dry vermouth (this will then make the drink a ‘dry’ Manhattan).
  5. Add four dashes of Angosta bitters.
  6. Stir liberally.
  7. To garnish, traditionally you add a maraschino cherry on top.
  8. Now – enjoy!

Making a Manhattan: To Each His Own

I know, the Manhattan cocktail is on almost every decent cocktail list in the world. But if you ask bartenders how to make the classic whiskey cocktail, every single one will give you a different recipe!

That is one of the fun parts about learning to make your own Manhattan – everyone makes it differently! Seriously, you can make your Manhattan however you please – no judgment! You can tune your Manhattan to fit your palette. If you like a sweeter cocktail, go heavier on the sugar. If you rather enjoy the smokiness of the whiskey, tone the sugar down. Like it bitter? Add extra Angosta bitters. Not a fan of bitter tastes? Add fewer bitters or just leave them out of the recipe altogether. Vermouth is an acquired taste – if it’s not for you there are plenty of liquor alternatives that will suit you!

Feeling Adventurous? Take Some New Ingredients for A Spin!

If you’re adventurous, you can even try adding different flavor profiles to your Manhattan. Depending on whether you like your drinks on the sweeter side or on the more bitter side, here are a few options to try out! We definitely recommend trying the traditional Manhattan recipe above before experimenting, so you’re familiar with the flavors you have to work with.

One option to mix up your Manhattan game is to try out a rye whiskey. The flavor profiles won’t be as smoky as a traditional bourbon, but it will still be a great alternative if you’re not big on bourbon. If you’re opting for a rye instead of bourbon, we recommend using only two dashes of Angosta bitters instead of the usual four.

If you’re a fan of spiced whiskeys, try adding a spiced whiskey to your Manhattan. To garnish – try a regular Cherry instead of a maraschino cherry. The sweetness of the maraschino will detract from the rich, spicy flavors of a spiced whiskey. If you’re not big on cherries, feel free to garnish the cocktail with a lemon or orange peel instead of a cherry.

The Best Part – Time to Enjoy!

 Invite your friends over for a ‘Make Your Own Manhattan’ night. Pick up a selection of ingredients, and all try your hand at making your own versions of this delicious whiskey cocktail. For all your Manhattan party needs – head over to We’ve got a wide selection of glasses that will be perfect for showing off your new creation, as well as a selection of whiskey rocks and bullets to chill your cocktail to the perfect temperature.

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