The Manhattan: A Classic & Easy Cocktail Recipe

Posted by Jay Jordan on

Classic cocktails are always in style and The Manhattan is one of the most popular.

With a mix of 3 simple ingredients and some creativity, you're bound to create a delicious cocktail that is sure to impress.

Manhattan cocktail with cherry garnish on a bar top


In this blog post, we're going to break down the Manhattan recipe for you. Understanding how to make a Manhattan will provide a solid base for you to create all sorts of other drinks by simply switching out a few key ingredients here and there. You'll have the power to be creative and come up with new drinks on the fly. Be the life of any party and show off your cocktailing skills!

The History of the Manhattan Cocktail

The Manhattan, not surprisingly, comes from Manhattan. It is unclear when or how the recipe was developed, but there are printed references to it as far back as the 1860’s. One of the neat things about this particular drink is that the formula is a 2-1-2 ratio, which also happens to be the area code for the Island of Manhattan. This makes it really easy to remember how to make the Manhattan and it’s many variations.


manhattan cocktail with a cherry garnish in a coupe glass


The basic recipe is 2 parts whiskey (usually American rye, but often bourbon or Canadian whisky), 1 part sweet vermouth, and 2 dashes of bitters. This is also the same ratio that is used in early recipes for the Martini. Just substitute gin, dry vermouth and orange bitters.

The Manhattan Deconstructed

This is a three ingredient cocktail. Whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters. That mix of ingredients can be adapted  - gin, dry vermouth, bitters - to your own tastes.


Manhattan cocktail on a wooden board with a cherry sunken to the bottom of the coupe glass


The Main Spirit: Rye

Many traditional recipes specify rye, however, bourbon and Canadian whiskey are great substitutes as well. The advantage of rye is that it tends to have a little more spice which adds some depth and ensures the flavour comes through the sweet vermouth.

For our standard recipe we are going to use a whiskey with lots of rye character like Knob Creek Rye, Alberta Premium or for a local option, Stillhead Whisky!


Knob reek Rye whisky bottle

Knob Creek Straight Rye

This small batch straight rye is the first from Knob Creek. It is 'patiently aged' with a blend of up to 9 years old. Bottled at 100 proof.

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Sweet Vermouth

Sweet vermouth is a wine that is fortified and flavoured with various botanicals. It has a lightly bittersweet and herbal flavour. Vermouth is a common cocktail ingredient, but it is also well worth exploring on its own as an aperitif.

For our recipe we are going to use a local favourite by Esquimalt Wine Company, but you're welcome to choose your own by shopping online.


Knob reek Rye whisky bottle

Esquimalt Sweet Vermouth

Plums, figs, oranges, brown sugar and spices. Rosemary, cinnamon and cola with a finish that rolls right into the next sip.

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Bitters are the spice rack of the cocktail world.

Angostura bitters are made from a blend of herbs and spices. They have a unique intensely bitter flavour that is rounded out with clove, nutmeg and baking spice flavours.

The combination of woody, tannic spice aromas in Angostura bitters works well in a Manhattan, but a variety of different bitters flavours will work. Feel free to try something new. 

The Classic Manhattan 

Ingredientsmanhattan cocktail

  • 2 ounces Rye Whisky
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • Orange twist or cherry for garnish 

Steps: Fill a mixing glass or the bottom half of a cocktail shaker with ice. Add whisky, sweet vermouth and bitters (Tip: if you're looking for a little extra sweetness, add a bar spoon of Amarena cherry juice.) Stir until well chilled and diluted, then strain into a cocktail glass and garnish.


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