Making the Manhattan

Ah the Manhattan. A cocktail that defines class and is a timeless treasure of the cocktail and mixology industry. Being a native New Yorker myself, I take great pride in the construction and innate flavors of the concoction. The Manhattan was one of the first cocktails I elected to master; along with the Long Island Iced Tea and the Old Fashioned. The Manhattan Cocktail was created in the 1800s in New York City and has stood the test of time as a pillar of the industry. If you’re looking to impress your friends or clientele, look no further than here.

As with most classical era cocktails, the Manhattan Cocktail consists of primarily three ingredients; Whiskey, Vermouth, and Bitters. The recipes also calls for the garnish additions of a cherry or lemon peel. Due to the simplicity of the recipe, there has been longstanding debate on the proper construction of the Manhattan. However whether you’re a purist or an innovator there’s a few agreed upon rules regarding Manhattans.

To start, we have to have the right tools for the job. You don’t have to own anything elaborate or fancy to get the job done but you should have the bare minimum, and that is a mixing glass, bar spoon (different from a regular spoon), jigger, and a strainer. Also don’t forget your favorite serving glass or martini glass.

Now that we covered tools, let’s get into the core component of the recipe; Whiskey. So this is where the debate begins. At Empire Mixology we prefer the traditional components so we’re gonna go ahead and use Rye Whiskey for our own recipe, however bourbon has been a leading alternative for decades and ultimately its up to you what tastes best. Bourbon offers a more rounded flavor profile whereas rye can be a bit drier. Try both and see what you like best.

Going a little further on the Whiskey, don’t feel you have to get the greatest brands in the world for your Manhattan. The truth is that the Bitters and the Vermouth will kill most of the natural whiskey flavors in your cocktail. That being said don’t buy the cheapest liquor you can either, otherwise you’ll be trying to cover the bad flavor more with the additives. Middle of the road to higher end whiskies will do well in this recipe.

Onto the second main ingredient, Vermouth. Now there is no “wrong” vermouth, but it’s pretty much well accepted that you use sweet red vermouth for a Manhattan Cocktail. You can use the right mixture of sweet and dry vermouths to make a “perfect” Manhattan as well. The important part here is that you either research which brand of vermouth pairs best with your choice of whiskey, or you do the experimentation yourself. Remember that some brands of whiskey are stronger than others, and not every vermouth is made equal.

Moving to the third and final core component of the recipe is Angostura Bitters. Personally, I refuse to use any other Bitters in the creation of the Manhattan. Although orange bitters is not a bad substitute, you just can’t beat the floral taste of angostura bitters. It’s not wrong to experiment with different types, but you’ll find the most crowdpleasing choice is angostura.

So let’s talk about how it’s mixed now. The rule of thumb is two parts whiskey, one part vermouth, and three dashes of bitters. Feel free to experiment and see what combination works best, but this is how it “should” be made. The other major important rule is DO NOT shake this cocktail, it is a stirred cocktail. Approximately 15-20 rotations will suffice with ice. Then you simply strain into your glass of choice.

So now Mr./Ms. Bartender it’s up to you. Feel free to garnish with a lemon peel or cherry (please don’t use maraschino). Go crazy and use both if you’d like. Remind your friends and patrons that the Manhattan is meant to be enjoyed slowly and sipped casually. I also recommend you head over to our cigar lounge section as the Manhattan pairs well with a cigar too. (Looking at you KevTheRev).