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Here are the secrets to the best Manhattan cocktail recipe! Make this easy classic cocktail with just three ingredients: rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters.

Manhattan Cocktail
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The sophisticated Manhattan cocktail is among the first cocktails in history, and has stood the test of time. It’s got only three ingredients, but there’s so much flavor in one sip! Peppery notes come from the rye whiskey, hints of sweet and spicy from the vermouth, and an herbal nuance from the bitters. As cocktail experts and certified mixologists, this is a classic cocktail we heartily recommend if you love booze-forward drinks. Here are the Manhattan ingredients and how to make a truly stellar drink!

Manhattan cocktail ingredients

The Manhattan cocktail was invented in 1874 by a bartender at The Manhattan Club in New York City, supposedly for a party thrown by Jennie Churchill (mother of the famous Winston). The first printed recipe for the Manhattan appeared in the 1884 classic book The Modern Bartender’s Guide by O.H. Byron. It has gone in and out of fashion throughout the years, but in recent decades it’s been consistently on the list of top ten most popular American cocktails.

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
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 for a smoother, more balanced Bourbon Manhattan. Feel free to use whatever suits your tastes! Some bourbons we recommend are Elijah Craig Small Batch or Woodford Reserve. Or, use a locally distilled option if you have one.

Love Scotch? Make a Manhattan with Scotch whisky and it’s called a Rob Roy.

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. 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. Use up your bottle by shaking them into an Old Fashioned, Toronto, or Trinidad Sour.

Luxardo cherry

Top the Manhattan with a Luxardo cherry

The garnish is an important part of any cocktail, especially the classics! The traditional 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. It’s easy to find Luxardo cherries at your local liquor store, or get them online.

How to make a Manhattan

Once you’ve gathered all the ingredients, this three ingredient cocktail takes only a few minutes to make. Use a cocktail mixing glass or the base of a cocktail shaker to mix the cocktail: no shaking required!

  • Stir together 2 oz rye whiskey, 1 oz sweet vermouth, and 3 dashes bitters in a cocktail mixing glass. Add ice and stir with a bar spoon for 30 seconds until cold. A cocktail mixing glass is used for “stirred” cocktails that are spirit-forward and served without ice, like the Manhattan and Martini.
  • Strain and garnish. Strain the drink into a stemmed cocktail glass and garnish with a Luxardo cherry.
Manhattan cocktail recipe

Manhattan variations

There are many popular variations on the Manhattan. Once you’ve made it the classic way, try these spins:

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Manhattan cocktail

Classic Manhattan Cocktail

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5 from 2 reviews

  • 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: rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters.


  • 2 ounces* rye whiskey (or bourbon)
  • 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

More whiskey cocktails

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

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. Steve Rigas says:

    Really enjoyed this one, even without the cherry 🍒

  2. Alex Overhiser says:

    Let us know if you have any questions!