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Manhattan is a strong cocktail made with whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters for a multi-dimensional taste with little sweetness.

Manhattan Cocktail with Bitters

The Manhattan cocktail was one of the first cocktails to combine rye with vermouth. Once considered the most masculine of drinks, the boozy New York cocktail appeals to a wider audience today. It has enjoyed a welcome revival thanks to a renewed focus on handcrafted spirits and other creative ideas from craft spirit enthusiasts.

It is said that the drink originated at the Manhattan Club in New York City in the mid-1870s, where it was invented by Iain Marshall for a banquet hosted by Lady Randolph Churchill, mother of Winston. The success of the banquet made the drink fashionable with several people requesting the drink by referring to the name of the club where it originated. Rumour has it that Lady Randolph was pregnant and in France at the time, so this story might be questionable at best.

While rye is the traditional choice, other whiskies include Canadian whisky, bourbon, blended whiskey and Tennessee whiskey. The cocktail is usually stirred, then strained into a cocktail glass, and traditionally garnished with a maraschino cherry. The drink can also be served on the rocks in a lowball glass.

How do you make a Manhattan cocktail? Follow this easy recipe.

PREP TIME: ± 5min

YIELDS: 1 serving



Add the bourbon, sweet vermouth and bitters all into a mixing glass with ice.

Stir until it’s well chilled. Strain the mixture into a chilled coupe/martini glass.


Garnish with the cherry and enjoy.

Nowadays Manhattans are made with nearly any spirit on the market. Some work better than others of course, but if you have a favourite spirit, try giving it one of the following variations:

  • Tequila Manhattan: Combine the tequila, vermouth and bitters. Add ice cubes and stir until chilled. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a cherry and serve.
  • Cuban Manhattan: Combine the rum, vermouth, and bitters. Add ice cubes and stir until chilled. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with an orange twist and serve.
  • Brandy Manhattan: Combine the Brandy, vermouth, juice, and butters. At ice cubes and stir until chilled. Place a cherry into a martini glass. Strained over the mixture. Topped with lemon and serve.


For further reading, interesting stories and more creative cocktail recipes, take a look at 1st Principles’ comprehensive list of cocktail recipes.


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