Classic Manhattan Cocktail

This Manhattan cocktail isn’t to be confused with the contemporary Manhattan cocktail (usually 3 ounces of bourbon to 1 1/2 ounces of vermouth plus bitters and cherries). This classic recipe first appeared in the latter part of the nineteenth century and is referenced in later editions of How to Mix Drinks or the Bon Vivant’s Companion as well as Harry Johnson’s 1882 Bartenders’ Manual. This forgotten formula has a higher ratio of sweet vermouth to rye whiskey, with an accent of Curaçao and Boker’s bitters, served straight up with a lemon twist. Cherries in Manhattans came later as the mixture evolved into a different cocktail. The subtle mingling of flavors in this version illustrate an older style of drink making.–Jason Kosmas

LC Necessity Is The Mother Of Invention Note

We’re so uncouth, we didn’t even realize there was such a thing as a “mixing glass” until we set about to mix this drink for ourselves. Yet necessity truly is the mother of invention, especially when a Manhattan cocktail is on the line. We think you’ll manage to jury-rig something, too.

Classic Manhattan Cocktail Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 3 M
  • 3 M
  • Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 ounces 100-proof rye whiskey, such as Rittenhouse
  • 1 3/4 ounces sweet vermouth, such as Dolin Rouge
  • 1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 lemon twist, for garnish

Directions

  • 1. Pour the whiskey, vermouth, liqueur, and bitters into a mixing glass. Add large cold ice cubes and stir for 40 revolutions.
  • 2. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist. Drink the Manhattan post haste.
Thirsty for more? Sip on these:

Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Sandy Hill

Jan 27, 2012

We’ve enjoyed Manhattans using bourbon for years, and this Manhattan made with rye whiskey and Grand Marnier was equally delicious. We followed the “stir for 40 revolutions” direction and the drink was smooth, cooling, and distinctive. On a side note, we thought the addition of “cold” ice cubes was interesting. Aren’t all ice cubes cold? Anyhow, we’ll definitely keep this recipe close to the bar to make again!

Testers Choice
Dan Kraan

Jan 27, 2012

This Classic Manhattan is a very smooth, mellow sipper. Keep in mind that this easy-going drink is basically pure alcohol, so it’s quite potent, too! NOTE: “cold ice cubes” are mentioned in the recipe. I don’t think you can get ice cubes any way other than cold!

Testers Choice
Steve Subera

Jan 27, 2012

I love Manhattans, and while I usually prefer bourbon, I love a good rye. This classic recipe is mellowed by the large amount of vermouth, and sweetened by the Grand Marnier. Devotees to specific ryes may scoff at this recipe because the rye is in the background, but it’s worth a try. The beauty of such a simple drink is the ability to make it to suit your mood. If you want to really appreciate this, I recommend using a quality sweet vermouth, one that hasn’t been opened or has just been opened recently. Bad vermouth will ruin the experience.

Comments
Comments
  1. My goodness… I do love a proper Manhattan – It is a classic!

  2. NANCY CAVALLIN says:

    I’ve always wanted to try bourbon and sample a Manhatten. I will definitely try this out.

  3. Ellie says:

    Dan, oh, yes, you certainly get “warm” ice. Water freezes at 32 degrees, and depending on the temperature of the icemaker or freezer, the ice at frozen nearest the freezing point is “warm” ice. Ice frozen at 10 degrees or lower is “cold” ice. Cold ice stays solid longer, thus, keeping your drink cold longer and not watering down your drink.

    • David Leite says:

      Now, that’s interesting!

      • Mike says:

        I learned something today. I had no idea that ice could be “warm” or “cold”. Interesting indeed!

        • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

          Heh. Mike, swell catch. That’s what we get for leaving a recipe in its original wording, which we assumed to mean “straight-from-the-freezer” ice cubes and not “half-melted-and-sitting-in-a-puddle-of-water” cubes. But yes, we get what you’re saying….

  4. Mary Dailey says:

    Never have had a Manhattan. I’d say it’s time to try this one!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Well, you know what they say, Mary. It’s always five o’clock somewhere. So yes, I’d say it’s about time! Let us know what you think…

  5. John says:

    While there are many great variations on the Manhattan, one containing Grand Marnier has no business calling itself a “Classic Manhattan”. Not to mention the vermouth which is more than double what it should be.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      We respect your sentiment, John. And we actually wondered the same thing when we first read the recipe. Although as you note, it’s tricky to say what “classic” means when so many variations exist, especially when none of us were there. So we left the original title on this recipe as it seems to capture quite closely the sentiment of the original libation, despite the teensy splash of Grand Marnier–actually, perhaps even because of it, considering how bitters and vermouth back in the day tended to contain far more aromatics in the forms of citrus peels and herbs than they do today.

  6. David Small says:

    Employee’s Only in New York City has made this their house Manhattan. The Grand Marnier and additional Sweet Vermouth may not be to everyone’s taste, but I recommend it highly. I’ve substituted a less expensive orange curacao, but it wasn’t the same.

    I also recommend using Chambord (black raspberry liqueur) and Peychaud’s Bitters in place of Grand Marnier and Angistora Bitters. In fact, that’s come to be my regular recipe. As yet, I’ve been using Bourbon, but will experiment with Rye soon.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Appreciate your instincts and insights, David. Terrific to know about that lovely variation. Terrific. Thank you.

  7. Curt says:

    My father-in-law drinks Manhattans, and he fixed me one once. Although he does notoriously fix them maximum strength, it knocked my socks off!

  8. You must have heard me from the West coast the other day when I said I had never had a real Manhattan. This is on the plan for this weekend now!

  9. Anne says:

    Love this recipe, thank you! I love Manhattans, but sometimes they are just too boozy for my mood. With all these new, very high-quality vermouths available, a vermouth-forward Manhattan makes for a lovely drink. I added an absinthe wash to the glass and was quite happy with the result.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Lovely, Anne! Love how you explained your preference. And we can’t imagine NOT being happy with an absinthe wash! Brilliant mixology there…

  10. My wife and I love a good Manhattan. Unfortunately, for years we thought we could only get a good one at certain restaurants in town. This recipe removed that fallacy. Thanks David as this is the perfect take on a classic cocktail.

    • David Leite says:

      My pleasure, Derick. And Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. Raise a Manhattan in honor of us!

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