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A Bourbon Manhattan is the best Manhattan recipe there is! Grab your sweet vermouth for this stunning classic cocktail.

Bourbon Manhattan
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What’s the best type of Manhattan? In our minds, it’s a Bourbon Manhattan! Over here, we love the smooth, sweet flavor of bourbon whiskey. While a Manhattan is classically made with spicy rye whiskey, we prefer it made with bourbon. The notes of oak, vanilla and caramel oak in bourbon are the perfect match for sweet vermouth. Here’s our Bourbon Manhattan recipe and the best bourbon to use in this classy cocktail.

What’s in a Bourbon Manhattan?

The Manhattan is a classic cocktail made with whiskey, vermouth, and cocktail bitters. It was invented in the 1870’s, so it’s older than many classics that stemmed 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 became so popular, it’s a classic cocktail on the list of International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails. The official definition is with rye whiskey, so this Bourbon Manhattan recipe simply swaps out rye for bourbon. The ingredients you need are:

  • Bourbon whiskey
  • Sweet red vermouth
  • Angostura bitters
  • Luxardo cherry for the garnish
Bourbon Manhattan

Best bourbon for a Manhattan

When it comes to a Bourbon Manhattan recipe, you’ll want a quality bourbon. It’s a 2-ingredient drink (plus bitters), so the quality of the liquor is important. Bourbon is a specific type of American whiskey that is made from at least 51% corn and aged in oak barrels. It can be made anywhere in the US, but over 95% of the bourbon produced is made in Kentucky.

What’s the best bourbon for a Manhattan? No need to go with higher end craft and single-barrel bourbons, which are meant for sipping. A mid-range blended bourbon works well here, so look for anything in the $25 to $35 range for 750ml bottle. The top brands we’d recommend are:

  • $: Elijah Craig Small Batch
  • $$: Four Roses Small Batch or Woodford Reserve
  • $$$: Bulleit 10 Year Bourbon

More about vermouth

You know sweet vermouth makes the Manhattan and the Negroni: but what actually is it? Vermouth is a fortified wine. Fortified means that liquor has been added to the wine, usually brandy. Make sure to store vermouth in the refrigerator, where it will stay good for up to 3 months. There are two main types of vermouth: sweet (usually red) and dry (usually white).

  • Sweet vermouth is subtly sweet and spicy. It’s used in many classic cocktails: most famously the Manhattan.
  • Dry white vermouth is very dry, with a bitter finish. It’s used in martinis like the Classic Martini or Dirty Martini.
Bourbon Manhattan

Top the Bourbon Manhattan with a Luxardo cherry

It’s not really a classic cocktail until you’ve added a garnish, right? The classic garnish for a Manhattan is not just any cocktail cherry: it’s a Luxardo cherry. This type of cocktail cherry is so dark red, it almost looks black. The flavor? Complex, fruity, and nutty almost like amaretto.

Top this Bourbon Manhattan with a Luxardo cherry, and you’re in business. Where to find Luxardo cherries? It’s easiest to get them online but you can also find them at liquor stores.

How to make a Bourbon Manhattan

This easy cocktail only takes a few minutes to make! The main thing to note about a Bourbon Manhattan is that is stirred, not shaken: so you’ll need a cocktail mixing glass.

  • Stir together all ingredients in a cocktail mixing glass. Why not a shaker like most cocktails? A cocktail shaker dilutes the drink too much. When you have a spirit forward cocktail like a Manhattan or Martini, it’s mixed in a cocktail glass.
  • Don’t have one? You can definitely use any glass or container you like to mix the drink, then strain it into the serving glass. Or if you want to look like someone who knows their cocktails, grab yourself a cocktail mixing glass.
Bourbon Manhattan

Manhattan variations

There are so many spins on the classic! Here are a few other types of Manhattans:

When to serve a Bourbon Manhattan cocktail

The Bourbon Manhattan cocktail is sophisticated and complex: great for bourbon fans! 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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Bourbon Manhattan

Bourbon Manhattan

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


A Bourbon Manhattan is the best Manhattan recipe there is! Grab your sweet vermouth for this stunning classic cocktail.


  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) bourbon whiskey
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) sweet red vermouth
  • 3 dashes Angostura or orange bitters
  • Garnish: Luxardo cherry or other cocktail cherry


  1. Combine the bourbon whiskey, vermouth 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

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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1 Comment

  1. Paul m brucker says:

    Really enjoyed your Manhattan recipe. Description was perfect also instructions as well