The Manhattan cocktail is an iconic drink. Today it’s best known for its predominance in 1920s speakeasies, but what you may not realize is that it predates that era by at least 40 years.
In fact, the Manhattan predates everything from the martini to the Rob Roy. Learn its history, how to mix a perfect concoction in your whiskey glass, gift ideas, and more.
The History (and Legend) of the Manhattan Whiskey Cocktail
Exactly when the Manhattan was dreamed up is a little uncertain. However, it can be traced back as far as the late 1800s.
According to popular legend, the famous mix of vermouth, whiskey, and bitters was bartender-invented for a party Winston Churchill’s mother threw in 1874 at the Manhattan Club in New York City.
However, barely any digging reveals this as a false tale. Churchill’s mother was actually in England around that time – she was about to give birth to the someday - world leader himself.
Meanwhile, a conflicting account says that a bartender named Black invented the cocktail in the 1860s. This comes from another late-19th-century bartender’s written account, though he didn’t practice his trade until the 1880s.
Either way, the drink didn’t come onto the scene during the era known for extravagant parties. Instead, the Manhattan cruised in during the buttoned-up Victorian period. It was world-famous when it was invented, and people love it to this day.
How to Make the Perfect Manhattan
The perfect Manhattan calls for two parts whiskey and one part vermouth. A dash or two of Angostura bitters and some orange peel give the perfect hint of tang and depth. Some people leave out the bitters, but it wouldn’t be a classic Manhattan without them.
Here’s how to mix it up:
- Put some ice in a cocktail shaker
- Add the whiskey, vermouth, and bitters
- Shake until cold
- Rub orange peel on the rim of a whiskey glass
- Strain your drink into the glass
- Add a couple Maraschino cherries or an orange twist
For a summery, lighter version of the drink, use sweet vermouth and add a bar spoonful (about one teaspoon) of Maraschino liqueur.
For the uninitiated, Maraschino liqueur is not cloyingly sweet like a jar of Maraschino cherries. Instead, it’s made from distilled sour cherries and pure cane syrup. It’s a little sweet, a little bitter, and a little sour, and tastes perfect in a whiskey cocktail.
Serve Manhattans at your next summer party and impress your guests! You can even give Manhattans as gifts. Here’s how.
Give the Gift of a Superb Sip
If you’re on the lookout for a birthday gift, groomsmen gift, or wedding gifts, why not give cocktail kits? Include whiskey glasses, travel-size bottles of liquor, and bitters along with whiskey stones and a jar of Maraschino cherries. Wrap it up together for the perfect celebratory, creative gift your cocktail-loving compatriots will adore.