The Manhattan is one of my favorite cocktails and deservingly one of the 5 greatest cocktails of all time.

They’ve stood the test of time and are just as popular today as they were 150 years ago, and with only a few ingredients, they’re also one of the best, and most popular, and easiest cocktails to make at home.

But if you’ve ever felt like your home cocktails never taste as good as a great bar one, there are simple fixes. Read on to see how to make a great Manhattan.

manhattan |

The greatest cocktail from the greatest city

The very first thing I ordered in New York was a Manhattan, at a nice hotel where it cost $20, back when that was a lot of money for a cocktail. It was disappointing, to be honest. Ironically it was a few years later at the excellent Mozza bar in LA where I had a really good one. The mistake I’d been making was classic: bad vermouth. Ever since, I’ve fixed that issue and improved on my Manhattans with high end cherries, and I’ve never looked back.

What is a Manhattan

No one really knows the origin of the Manhattan but it’s one of the original cocktails, said to be invented in the 1860s at a bar in Manhattan, and by 1870 served to presidential nominees and high society before being pushed underground (and therefore made cooler) by prohibition. It’s dark, spicy, smooth, and incredibly complex.

The classic Manhattan recipe

A classic Manhattan is a 2:1 ratio of of American whiskey to Italian sweet vermouth and a dash of angostura bitters, garnished with maraschino cherries.

maraschino cherries |

What’s in a Manhattan?

Although most sources will tell you that a Manhattan has 3 ingredients, a Manhattan actually has 5 ingredients: whiskey, vermouth, bitters, water, and cherries. The water comes from the ice, which is needed to open up the flavors. Please avoid those whiskey stones.


Speaking of whiskey, the original Manhattan was just “American whiskey” which was usually bourbon or rye. During prohibition, which was when the Manhattan really came into its own, Canadian whisky was the main source. Some people feel that Canadian whisky is a cheap approximation of bourbon with a little rye mixed in, but it’s actually its own style, and Canadian whisky is some of the best 100% rye whisky in the world. In honor of that and of the history behind the drink, my favorite Manhattan 100% rye Alberta Premium whisky.

Note: Canadian whisky, like the scottish version, is properly spelled without an e.

Alberta Premium rye whisky |


Here is where, in my opinion, the biggest difference between a good and a great Manhattan is made. I try to stay away from the bottom shelf vermouth such as Martini. I’d rather spend my money on a good vermouth over a top shelf gin any day. My favorites are Punt e Mes, Cocchi Torino, and especially Carpano Antica. There are also dozens of really amazing Italian vermouths that you can experiment with, but Cocchi is a good place to start.

Cocchi Storico Vermouth |


Angostura bitters is where you want to be here. You can experiment with other bitters over time, but Angostura is the classic for a reason. While you can get Angostura bitters on Amazon, you can often also find them right next to the soda at any grocery store.


I could write a whole post on maraschino cherries. I feel they make all the difference in a good drink. Like with pasta or vermouth, Italian is the way to go here. Avoid the cheap supermarket candied cherries or “maraschino” cherries, and get the good stuff: Luxardo is the classic, amerena Toschi for an upscale pick (what I’m currently using), or Starlino as a young and hot newcomer. Not only is the quality of the cherry better, I use the liquor to add a little bit of sweetness to my Manhattan, which is not something you want to do with supermarket cherries. Don’t skimp on them, add 3-6 per drink, your tastebuds will thank you for it.

amarena Toschi cherries |


Invest in a good 2” covered ice cube tray for your cocktails. You don’t need to go crazy and make clear ice, but traditionally, these cocktails were made with large ice cubes from the days before plastic ice trays and nugget ice machines. A covered ice cube tray protects your ice from any stray freezer smells.

Shaken or Stirred

Please never shake a Manhattan.

straining a cocktail |

My best Manhattan

My best manhattan is Alberta Premium 100% rye whisky, Cocchi Storico vermouth, a dash of Angostura bitters, 3 amerena Toschi cherries, and a barspoon of cherry liquor.

manhattan |

How to make a manhattan

  1. Build the drink over ice: add whiskey, vermouth, and bitters to a mixing glass.
  2. Stir. Shaking drinks is usually a bad idea, except in the case of vodka martinis. Stirring allows more control over the dilution of ice (and coldness) of the drink. Professional bartenders often count the stirs so that the drink comes out the same every time.
  3. Add a barspoon-ful of cherry liquor along with 2-3 cherries to the cocktail glass.
  4. Strain the drink into the glass, and enjoy!

coupe glass |

Manhattan Glass

A Manhattan is traditionally served in a stemmed cocktail glass, aka a martini glass. I don’t really liek them and I think they’re played out, but a nice coupe (as pictured) or nick and nora are more tasteful ways to honor the history while keeping things modern.

Also try

Manhattan recipe |

Manhattan Recipe

The great classic cocktail
Serves 1
5 from 4 votes
Total Time 2 minutes


  • 2 oz Canadian Whisky Alberta Premium preferred
  • 1 oz Cocchi Storico vermouth
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • 1 barspoon cherry liquor
  • 3 maraschino cherries amarena Toschi preferred

Special Equipment

  • mixing glass
  • cocktail strainer


  • Build the drink over ice: add whiskey, vermouth, and bitters to a mixing glass. Stir for 30 seconds.
    building a manhattan |
  • Add a barspoon-ful of cherry liquor along with 2-3 cherries to the cocktail glass.
    manhattan |
  • Strain the drink into the glass, and enjoy!
    straining a cocktail |

Estimated Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Manhattan Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 193
% Daily Value*
Fat 0.01g0%
Saturated Fat 0.01g0%
Cholesterol 0.01mg0%
Sodium 0.01mg0%
Potassium 1mg0%
Carbohydrates 2.9g1%
Fiber 0.01g0%
Sugar 1.1g1%
Protein 0.01g0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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  1. Mara says:

    5 stars
    tastes great!!!

  2. Chris G says:

    5 stars
    Classic recipe and well described article. While you are correct, never shake a Manhattan I do ask for Manhattans to be shaken….its a tradition. My grandfather, a lawyer for Heublein back in the day. We would walk into the Oyster Bar with him at Grand Central Terminal and he would ask my brother and me, “Boys, do you know why they call this drink a “Manhattan?” We’d always respond, “No”, and he would answer as the bartender poured out his drink, “Because if you shake it right, it looks like the Hudson River!” and there would be a cloudy, brown cocktail in his glass. So in honor of his memory, I drive bartenders crazy asking for them shaken (and boring them with that story!). Thanks.

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