6 July 2019

Manhattan Cocktail

A timeless cocktail with a rich history and that never goes out of fashion. That's the Manhattan. This cocktail has only a few ingredients and many variants. Today we put the Manhattan cocktail in the limelight.

History Manhattan cocktail

The Manhattan has been popular for centuries, as it was invented in 1874 by a bartender of the Manhattan club. The Manhattan made its appearance when Jenny Churchill threw a party for Samuel James Tilden in honor of his election as Governor of New York. An iconic moment, celebrated with an equally iconic drink.

The cocktail immediately became very popular, especially as New York was really a rye whiskey city. The early Manhattan recipes always used this alcohol as their main ingredient. That changed with the draining, where alcohol was banned. The only alcohol that was drunk at the time came from Canada, as that was the only whiskey that could be smuggled in. 

It wasn't until 1950 that the Manhattan cocktail became popular again, because it could then be made in the original way. Slowly the cocktail reappeared on the market. To this day, the Manhattan is a worldwide favourite and is always one of the top 10 most popular cocktails in America.

Manhattan cocktail recipe

The Manhattan has many variants, but the original Manhattan cocktail recipe consists of 60ml rye whiskey, 25ml Italian sweet vermouth (such as Martini Rosso or Carpano Antica Formula), 2-3 dashes Angostura bitter and a garnish of Maraschino cherry. The strong whisky flavor makes it a real cocktail for whisky lovers, but the sweet red Vermouth makes it a lot rounder again. The Angostura bitter gives it an extra layer of depth in taste and the Maraschino cherry gives the cocktail a sweet final touch. Stir this cocktail in a mixing glass with ice and sieve it in a chilled Martini glass or coupe.

There are many variations on the Manhattan cocktail including:

  • Manhattan east: with bourbon, Domain de Canton, ginger, saké and orange bitter
  • Perfect Manhattan: whiskey with equal parts of red vermouth + dry vermouth. 
  • Variant also with only dry Vermouth
  • Garnish with orange peel or Maraschino cherry. Can also be used for both garnishes at the same time

O.H. Byron's Modern Bartender's Guide is a classic 1884 cocktail book. This book contains two variants of the Manhattan cocktail:

  • #1: french vermouth + whiskey + angostura bitters + gum syrup
  • #2: curacao + angostura bitter + whiskey + italian vermouth

Tips for making

  • Measure the recipe precisely with a measuring cup. So you always have the right proportions and always the same drink, over and over again. Just like a lot of French dishes, which work on exactly the right measured ingredients. 
  • Stir well so you can keep the flavors. This cocktail consists mainly of alcoholic beverages. Shaking makes it very different, this is what you do when there is a cloudy ingredient in your cocktail such as juice or puree. It's a robust drink. With stirren you can guarantee the original flavours. Use your watch to start counting how many seconds your stirt, 20-25 seconds. Or better use even: a temperature gauge like some bars do like TwentySeven bar, because measuring is knowing!
  • Use the best quality products. There are only a few ingredients, so they have to be of good quality. Whiskey is the most important with the biggest proportion, you have to use a good one. Examples of good whiskeys for a Manhattan are Buffalo Traces or Woodfort Reserve.
  • Use fresh ice blocks. You can really taste "old" ice blocks in the cocktail, because it tastes like the freezer itself with all the other food products that have been in it. The dilution during mixing also plays an important role. It opens up flavours. Take whiskey - if you add a few drops of water to it, it will open up many flavours you wouldn't normally taste. 
  • Use an ice-cold glass to keep the cocktail nice and cold for as long as possible. So you could put your glasses in a freezer, which would freeze your glasses nicely. Moreover, this also looks very nice when you have guests at the bar. Gram's cooling systems are recommended for this purpose.

When is the Manhattan suitable?

Due to the large proportions of alcohol, the Manhattan is particularly suitable as an aperitif. Whiskey as well as red Vermouth and Angostura are real aperitifs. It's a strong cocktail that improves your appetite. 

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