Try the Black Manhattan cocktail! This recipe swaps in Italian amaro for a cocktail that’s even more sophisticated—and tasty—than the original.

Black Manhattan

Love a good Manhattan? Then you’ll love this funky spin: the Black Manhattan! This classy drink swaps out sweet vermouth for an Italian amaro. It’s strong and boozy, like any good Manhattan, but with caramel and chocolate notes on the finish. The one’s one of a kind, especially for the astute home bartender who’s delighted by the excuse to purchase a specialty liqueur. It was a big hit over here…and though I lean towards a spritz with my amaro consumption, I can appreciate this boozy triumph.

What’s in a Black Manhattan?

The Manhattan dates back to the 1870’s, so it’s older than many classic cocktails from the 1920’s and 30’s. The story goes that the drink was invented at a club called The Manhattan Club in New York City, hence the name. The Manhattan is a classic cocktail on the list of International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails, meaning it has an official definition.

The Black Manhattan takes that and swaps out the sweet vermouth for an Italian amaro called Averna. The drink was invented in 2007 by bartender Todd Smith at the Bourbon & Branch in San Fransisco, and went on to become a solid modern classic. The ingredients in a Black Manhattan are:

  • Rye whiskey
  • Italian amaro, like Averna or another herbal, caramel-flavored amaro (substitute Cynar, Amaro Nonino, or Meletti)
  • Angostura bitters
  • Orange bitters
  • Cocktail cherry for the garnish

The obvious special ingredient is the amaro. Let’s chat about it a bit, shall we?

More about Amaro and Averna

Amaro is a family of Italian herbal liqueurs that taste bitter (amaro means bitter in Italian). It encompasses a wide range of spirits: the most famous being ultra-bitter Campari. At the other end of the spectrum is Aperol, sweet and barely bitter at all. But there are so many different varieties in between! Averna is a variety that’s somewhere in the middle.

  • Averna is an Italian amaro made in Sicily, Italy since 1868. It’s dark brown and the flavor is spicy, and herbal, with caramel and honey notes.
  • If you can’t find Averna, substitute another dark, herbal and sweet amaro. Some good options include Meletti (we used in this Amaro Spritz), Nonino (in the Paper Plane) or Amaro Tosolini (in the Brooklyn). Another option is Cynar.

Looking for more? Try all our Must-Try Amaro Cocktails.

Averna amaro

The whiskey: rye vs bourbon

The traditional way to make a Manhattan or Black Manhattan is with rye whiskey. Rye whiskey has a spicier flavor than bourbon, which is sweeter. Because there’s so much spice and intrigue already going on in a Manhattan that we prefer the sweeter flavor of bourbon here. But they are both fantastic! Feel free to use whatever suits you.

The cherry on top…a Luxardo cherry!

The garnish for a “real” Manhattan cocktail is not just any cherry: it’s a Luxardo cherry. This type of cocktail cherry is so dark red it’s almost black. The flavor? Complex, fruity, and nutty almost like amaretto. Exactly what you need for a classic cocktail like the Black Manhattan. It’s easiest to find Luxardo cherries online. We assume if you’re in on this drink, you probably already have a jar in the fridge.

Black Manhattan

Cocktail bitters round it out!

Like the Manhattan, the Black Manhattan has a few drops of bitters to add complexity to the drink. The Black spin uses both Angostura bitters and orange bitters, to add even more intrigue than the standard cocktail. Of course if you don’t have one or the other, feel free to use just one variety. The difference is very subtle.

Cousin drinks: the Brooklyn, Martinez and more!

The Black Manhattan is a fun modern twist on a classic cocktail: kind of like a White Negroni or the Gin Gin Mule. Here are some related classic cocktails to try if you love this one:

Black Manhattan recipe

When to serve a Black Manhattan cocktail

The Manhattan cocktail is sophisticated and complex, something we’d recommend for the adventurous home bartender. It’s perfect for sipping as a:

  • Happy hour drink
  • Dinner party drink
  • Late night drinks drink
  • Guys or girls night drink
  • Cocktail hour drink
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Black manhattan

Black Manhattan


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x

Description

Try the Black Manhattan cocktail! This recipe swaps in Italian amaro for a drink that’s even more sophisticated—and tasty—than the original. 


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) bourbon or rye whiskey
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) Italian amaro, like Averna
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • For the garnish: Cocktail cherry or Luxardo cherry

Instructions

  1. Combine the whiskey, amaro and bitters in a cocktail mixing glass (or any other type of glass). Fill the mixing glass with 1 handful ice and stir continuously for 30 seconds.
  2. Strain into a coupe or cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry and serve.
  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Shaken
  • Cuisine: Cocktails
  • Diet: Vegan

Keywords: Black Manhattan, Black Manhattan recipe

More great whiskey cocktails

Want to make all the greats? Here are some of the top whiskey cocktails to try:

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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8 Comments

  1. I love Black Manhattans and only a few bartenders know how to mix one. So I decided to try your recipe and it is delicious, easy too. I used Redemption rye whiskey. Very very good drink!! If I can mix anyone can.

  2. This was so so yummy! The Averna Amaro really made the difference!

    I made one with Buffalo Trace bourbon and another with Rittenhouse Rye.. Both were great but the added spice of the rye gave it a bit more zing!

  3. Drinking a Black Manhattan right now. Once i tried one (a year ago!) i never looked back. So much more better (!!) than a regular Hattie which i used to love.

  4. I love all your recipes, including your cocktails! My husband makes great Manhattans, and we can’t wait to try this one! Thanks. (I make my own brandied cherries when cherries are in season and make a big batch to last through the winter. Maybe I should keep some Luxardo cherries on hand, as well!) ~Jan

  5. nice! I am going to try this with Basil Hayden dark rye and Mr Black’s cold brew coffee Amaro adding some Aztec chocolate bitters.. I am confident enough in the flavor to give this 5 stars before even making it!

    definitely check out the Mr Black Amaro, limited release twice a year, really good in coffee liqueur drinks, straight up or even just a splash into some cola!

  6. Re your recipe for a Black Manhattan: I used barolo chinato instead of the vermouth, and, of course, burbon. Please try it, works well for me.
    Oh, regarding having a jar of luxardo cherries in the fridge….that’s a no-no!
    The label states “do not refrigerate after opening”
    Cheers.