How To Make The “Perfect” Manhattan (Pun Intended)
— Updated on 25 July 2023

How To Make The “Perfect” Manhattan (Pun Intended)

— Updated on 25 July 2023
Randy Lai
Randy Lai
1 serving(s)
Prep Time:
5 mins
Total Time:
5 mins


  • 2 oz Bourbon whiskey
  • 0.4 oz Rosso (sweet) vermouth
  • 0.4 oz Dry vermouth
  • 2 Dash Angostura bitters


  1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass filled with ice.
  2. Stir well to chill and strain into a coupe, or into an Old Fashioned glass on the rocks.
  3. Zest a piece of orange peel over your drink, then discard.
  4. Garnish with a Maraschino cherry.

RELATED: 16 Of The Best Bourbon Whiskies Worth Drinking In 2023

Ah, the Manhattan. Named for a legendary New York borough, hailed far and wide as “the drink that changed the face of cocktails”; it’s a serve that we’d all do well to order more frequently — especially if you enjoy the concept of the Martini, but aren’t all that keen on the prospect of imbibing clear spirits.

Although the first documented recipe for the Manhattan appeared in The Modern Bartenders’ Guide (published in 1884) the most popular creation myth ties this classic vermouth-and-whisky concoction to the eponymous Manhattan Club — importantly, at one time the residence of Winston Churchill’s mother, Jennie Jerome.

Manhattan recipe

This reputation was further solidified by a column published, in 1902, in The New York Times declaring that “it was the Manhattan Club which first gave birth to the Manhattan cocktail.”

A more credible origin story also ties the drink’s conception to a New York bartender by the name of George Black: whose claim on the Manhattan recipe is primarily substantiated by eyewitness accounts given by notable bartenders of the 1920s.

Whatever the case may be, the Manhattan is one of those grown-up mixed beverages that is unlikely to disappear into the annals of history. It has, on occasion, ebbed in popularity; but in the tradition of similar modern cocktails, will likely always appeal to the same subset of the drinking public who enjoy spirited complexity, and a deceptively simple presentation.

As You Like It: Sweet, Dry, Or Perhaps Even ‘Perfect’

To be clear, the Manhattan recipe I’ve teed up for this how-to is of the “perfect” variety: not because it’s necessarily more historic/popular than its by default sweet cousin, but because it is the version I find most approachable.

The dry vermouth lends a touch of floral softness that plays well together with the woody, coconut flavours of the Bourbon — we like Buffalo Trace or Maker’s Mark 46 — and it is this simple addition that creates something that’s altogether drier than the consummate sweet Manhattan.

Newcomers to the style often complain that the latter can taste faintly reminiscent of cough syrup: to avoid all that, be judicious with your use of the orange peel garnish. For added dilution, you can even serve it on the rocks.

Just remember: much like the Martini, there is a dry, sweet, or high-rye way to drink your Manhattans.

Enjoyed this Manhattan recipe? Then consider checking out these other easy-to-make classic cocktails we’ve got on-site below:

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Randy Lai
Following 6 years in the trenches covering consumer luxury across East Asia, Randy joins Boss Hunting as the team's Commercial Editor. His work has been featured in A Collected Man, M.J. Bale, Soho Home, and the BurdaLuxury portfolio of lifestyle media titles. An ardent watch enthusiast, boozehound and sometimes-menswear dork, drop Randy a line at [email protected].


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