How to Make a Manhattan Drink


Drinking cocktails is one of the best ways to end a stressful day or week. These drinks are delicious, pretty to look at and intoxicating at the same time. One popular cocktail is the Manhattan. Knowing its history is exciting since the drink is named after a world-famous place in New York City. Aside from its memorable past, let’s also learn how to make a Manhattan drink.

History of the Manhattan Drink

The past of the Manhattan is actually vague. There are different claims about its origin:

  • Lady Churchill’s Banquet

    In the first part of the 1870s, the Manhattan drink is believed to be discovered inside the Manhattan Club, New York City. Dr. Iain Marshall invented the mix to be specially served in Jennie Jerome’s banquet for Samuel J. Tilden, a candidate for the presidency that time. Jerome, who hosted the banquet, was also known as Lady Randolph Churchill. She was the mother of the iconic Sir Winston Churchill.

    Because of the banquet’s success, Dr. Marshall’s drink became a trend. People started to ask for the special drink most of the time by referring to it as “the Manhattan cocktail,” based on the club’s name.

    However, the story became complicated when some records showed that Lady Randolph was actually in France during the proclaimed banquet. She was pregnant that time.

  • Simple Bartender’s Mix

    The other story about the Manhattan drink is way simpler than the special banquet cocktail version. The only similarity is the place of origin – Manhattan, of course. In the 1860s, it was said that a bartender simply named Black invented the cocktail on Broadway, close to Houston Street.

Traditions Related to the Manhattan Drink

Knowing the traditions associated with the Manhattan drink can give us a clearer picture on how to make, serve and drink the cocktail in various ways possible:

  • European Tradition

    The influence of the Manhattan drink went all the way to Europe, specifically in the small island of Föhr in North Frisia. The cocktail became the usual drink in most parties, cafes, and restaurants. A story suggested that many locals from the island reached Manhattan when they kept on doing long-distance fishing trips.

    These people loved the drink so much that they introduced it to their hometown. They just twisted the content a little bit by mixing one part vermouth, two parts whiskey, a few bitters and a garnish of fresh cherry. They also liked it ice cold. Although, some critics would say that a perfect mix changes the one part vermouth into half red and half white.

  • No Shakes Allowed

    In the later part of the 1800s, people believed that no shaking is allowed for a Manhattan drink. They only preferred stirring the mix. The reason was to stop foaming. Nowadays, however, the real causes of foaming are cheap ingredients and dirty tools.

How to Serve a Manhattan Drink

The most basic ingredients of a Manhattan cocktail are bitters, sweet vermouth, and whiskey. When it comes to whiskey, there are several options to choose from such as Tennessee, blended, Canadian and the ever-popular corn-based bourbon.

However, looking all the way back in history, the original ingredients of a Manhattan cocktail were Angostura bitters, Italian vermouth, and American whiskey. American whiskey was changed to Canadian whiskey when its production was stopped caused by the 1920-1933 Prohibition.

If you have already tasted Brooklyn cocktail, then you can say that the Manhattan is very similar to it. A Brooklyn is a mixture of Maraschino liqueur, dry vermouth, and Amer Picon. Maraschino liqueur and dry vermouth are equivalent to the Manhattan’s sweet vermouth. Meanwhile, Amer Picon has the same effect as the Manhattan’s ordinary bitters.

As expected, a Manhattan drink is contained in a cocktail glass after stirring and straining it. The usual garnish is Maraschino cherry, including its stem. However, sometimes, people prefer their Manhattan in a lowball glass with ice.

How to Make a Manhattan Drink

Since we already mentioned above the original and basic ways to make a Manhattan drink, let’s focus on variations for more interesting choices to follow. The Manhattan cocktail is so flexible that it does not end in just one type of mixture only.

  • Perfect Manhattan

    Equal portions are important to this variation. A Perfect Manhattan uses equal amounts of dry vermouth and sweet vermouth.

  • Fourth Regiment

    This variation is actually one of the classics. The Fourth Regiment uses an equal ratio of vermouth and whiskey. As for the bitters, it uses three kinds of equally small portions: Peychaud’s, celery and orange.

  • Tijuana Manhattan

    A more exotic version of the drink, the Tijuana Manhattan is composed of Añejo Tequila.

  • Cuban Manhattan

    Also considered to be similar to a Perfect Manhattan, a Cuban Manhattan uses dark rum as the main content.

  • Brandy Manhattan

    To replace whiskey, a Brandy Manhattan obviously uses brandy. It is a popular drink in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

  • Metropolitan

    Almost the same as a Brandy Manhattan, a Metropolitan uses three portions of brandy to one portion of vermouth.

  • Dry Manhattan

    To replace sweet vermouth, dry vermouth is used in a Dry Manhattan. Another change is using a twist cocktail garnish instead of the maraschino cherry to reduce the sweetness.

  • Rob Roy

    This variation uses Scotch whiskey.

  • Other Variations

    When it comes to mixing the ingredients, some people prefer to shake the Manhattan drink in a cocktail shaker with ice while others choose to just stir it.

    Instead of the classic Angostura bitters, orange bitters can be used. Pros tend to create their own version of syrups and bitters or use rare whiskeys and exotic ingredients.

    Cherry is the most popular garnish for a Manhattan drink, but lemon peel can also be used. The cherry’s juice can also be added to the mix for more color and sweetness.


For a perfect Manhattan cocktail, it is best to be also knowledgeable about the origins and traditions in relation to it. The information might help if you want to twist the content smoothly without compromising the essence of the drink while meeting your specific preferences. Learning how to make a Manhattan drink and other cocktails such as margaritas, hard cider, and whiskey sour need a deeper connection to the beverage for a more delicious mix.