Here are the secrets to the best Manhattan cocktail recipe! Make this easy classic cocktail with just three ingredients.

Manhattan Cocktail

Are you a fan of the Manhattan cocktail? This sophisticated whiskey drink has a long history and has stood the test of time. It’s got only three ingredients, but there’s so much going on in one sip! Hints of vanilla and oak come from the bourbon, sweet and spicy notes from the vermouth, and an herbal nuance from the bitters. When we want a truly classic cocktail, this is one we’ll reach for. Here are the Manhattan cocktail ingredients and how to make a truly stellar drink.

Manhattan cocktail ingredients

The Manhattan cocktail dates back to the 1870’s, so it’s a predecessor to the many cocktails that sprung up in 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. This means that there’s an official definition for the Manhattan cocktail ingredients:

  • Rye whiskey
  • Sweet red vermouth
  • Angostura bitters
  • Luxardo cocktail cherry for the garnish

Let’s chat through each of the ingredients, shall we?

Manhattan cocktail ingredients

For the whiskey: rye vs bourbon

The traditional way to make a Manhattan cocktail recipe is with rye whiskey. Rye whiskey has a spicier flavor than bourbon, which is sweeter. Personally we like the sweeter flavor of bourbon here, which makes a smoother, more balanced Manhattan. Feel free to use whatever suits your tastes! Some bourbon options we recommend are Elijah Craig Small Batch or Woodford Reserve. Use a locally distilled option if you have one (we used a local bourbon: Hotel Tango from Indianapolis).

Typically we prefer the taste of bourbon whiskey to rye in cocktails, but it depends on the drink! We use bourbon in our Whiskey Sour and Old Fashioned recipes. Love Scotch? Make a Manhattan with Scotch whisky: it’s called a Rob Roy! See below for more Manhattan variations.

All about vermouth!

Vermouth is a fortified wine, meaning that liquor has been added to stabilize it. Other types of fortified wines are Port, Sherry or Madeira. There are two main types of vermouth: sweet (usually red) and dry (usually white).

  • Sweet vermouth is subtly sweet and spicy, with a hint of bitter on the finish. It’s used in many classic cocktails, like the Manhattan, Negroni, and Americano.
  • Dry white vermouth tastes like a dry white wine. It’s most famous for its use in martinis, like the Classic Martini or Dirty Martini.

You can mix vermouth in cocktails, or you can drink sweet vermouth on the rocks as an aperitif. When we visited Spain, we loved drinking Spanish vermouth on the rocks: it has an even sweeter flavor: almost like cola! Store vermouth in the refrigerator, where it will stay good for up to 3 months.


Angostura bitters add complexity

Angostura bitters are popularly used in cocktails to add a complex and bitter undertone. Grab a bottle and shake a dash or two into a drink, and it goes from one-note to extraordinarily complex with just a few drops. That’s because bitters are made with many herbs and spices, which add intrigue because the flavors are not easily recognizable.

Angostura bitters are one of the most popular in drinks and easy to find. They get the name from their manufacturer: the House of Angostura in Trinidad and Tobago. More classic cocktails that use Angostura bitters? The Old Fashioned, Toronto, Trinidad Sour and Champagne Cocktail.

Luxardo cherry

Top the Manhattan with a cherry…a Luxardo cherry!

The garnish is an important part of any cocktail, especially classic cocktails! It’s not the real thing without the garnish, right? The garnish for a Manhattan cocktail is a Luxardo cherry.

Luxardo cherries are a cocktail cherry, but they’re so dark red they almost look black. They don’t taste anything like a Maraschino: the flavor is complex, fruity, and nutty, almost like amaretto. Where to find Luxardo cherries? It’s easiest to get them online.

How to make a Manhattan

Once you’ve gathered all the ingredients, the easy part is making the Manhattan cocktail! This three ingredient cocktail takes only a few minutes to make. Here are a few notes on what to do:

  • Stir together all ingredients in a cocktail mixing glass. Shaking the drink in a cocktail shaker would dilute it too much. A cocktail mixing glass is used for “stirred” cocktails that are spirit-forward and served without ice, like the Manhattan and Martini.
  • Don’t have one? You can use any glass or container you like to mix the drink, then strain it into the serving glass. But if you want to look like someone who knows their cocktails, grab yourself a cocktail mixing glass. (Plus, it just looks cool.)
Manhattan cocktail recipe

Manhattan variations

There are many popular variations on the Manhattan. Once you’ve made it the classic way, try these spins! Our personal favorites are with bourbon and brandy.

When to serve this Manhattan cocktail recipe

The Manhattan cocktail is a sophisticated and complex whiskey cocktail. 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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Manhattan cocktail

Classic Manhattan Cocktail

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


Here are the secrets to the best Manhattan cocktail recipe! Make this easy classic cocktail with just three ingredients.


  • 2 ounces* bourbon or rye whiskey
  • 1 ounce sweet red vermouth
  • 3 dashes Angostura or orange bitters
  • Luxardo cherry, for garnish


  1. Combine the 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.


*To convert to tablespoons, 1 ounce = 2 tablespoons

  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Stirred
  • Cuisine: Cocktails
  • Diet: Vegan

Keywords: Manhattan Cocktail, Manhattan Cocktail Ingredients, Manhattan Cocktail Recipe

More whiskey cocktails

We’ve got lots of great whiskey cocktails and bourbon cocktails for you to choose from! Here are our favorites:

Last updated: March 2021

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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