The go-to cocktails in our house are the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan or some variation of them. The Manhattan, like the Old Fashioned and most classic cocktails, has a foggy beginning. Nobody really knows the exact origins of the Manhattan cocktail but there are a few stories claiming it.
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Manhattan Cocktail History
The drink we know today is slightly different than the days of yore. The recipe from the History of the Manhattan Club: A Narrative of the Activities of Half a Century calls for equal parts vermouth and whiskey with a dash of orange bitters. Nowadays, the prevalent Manhattan recipe is made with 2 parts whiskey to 1 part vermouth with a dash of bitters.
The New York Manhattan Club
The New York Manhattan Club, a social club founded in 1865 and then later dissolved in 1979, is one group that lays claim to the Manhattan. While the club was operating, it had quite the extensive collection of whiskey, especially rye whiskey, which was very popular.
In 1915, it was quite the marketing for a membership with a $250 initiation fee and $75 annual dues, which today would equate to about $6,238.56 for initiation and $1,871.57 annually.
William F. Mulhall – Hoffman House, NY
The slightly more credible record comes from William F. Mulhall, a bartender for thirty years at the famed Hoffman House on Broadway in New York. In a story he wrote, he claims the drink was invented in the 1860s by a man named “Black,” “who lived ten doors down on Broadway.” Mulhall also claimed the Manhattan was the most famous drink in the world at the time.
What does a Manhattan Cocktail taste like?
A Manhattan cocktail is made completely with spirits, so it is considered booze or spirit forward. When made correctly it’s a perfect balance between booze and aromatized wine sweetness with a hint of bitters. Like any recipe, a collection of many ingredients complementing one another, the Manhattan should taste as if it was one.
We like to enjoy our cocktails before dinner or after as dessert.
Making a Manhattan Cocktail at Home
Making this cocktail at home is simple, as it doesn’t require many ingredients or tools. However, you’ll want to follow some basic rules to make sure you get the proper balance and flavor in your Manhattan.
- Make accurate pours and measurements. If you’re not precise, the flavors of the drink won’t blend and won’t taste as good.
- No need to break the bank on booze here. Low-to-mid price rye whiskeys like Old Overholt, Rittenhouse, or Woodford Reserve work well. Get it delivered from Bev Mo! with Instacart.
- Get to know vermouth. There are many great sweet vermouths out there with very different tastes. Some have a lighter mouthfeel and a sweet dry flavor while others can be thicker with bolder flavors. Try tasting Martini Rossi against Punt e Mes or Dolin against Carpano
Anitca. Have fun finding your favorite.
- If you don’t already have a coupe or martini glass, it’s worth getting a couple for your home bar. Glassware plays a key role in how you enjoy your cocktail. Drinking a Manhattan out of the right type of glass will be a much better experience.
- Buy good quality cherries. I cannot stress this enough. Those
flourescentred balls they call cherries are anything but. Spend the money and get Luxardo or Fabbri cherries. You’ll be happy you did.
Manhattan Cocktail Variations
Much like the Old Fashioned, the Manhattan is ripe for riffs. It doesn’t always have to be rye whiskey, try bourbon, gin, or even cognac, the booze options are endless. Some ideas:
- Try a split base with bourbon and rye, or make a reverse Manhattan (2 parts sweet vermouth to 1 part spirit)
- Go for a perfect Manhattan (.5 oz sweet vermouth plus .5 oz dry vermouth)
- Swap out vermouth for Amari.
And, a house favorite riff of ours uses rye whiskey but swaps out the vermouth for a mix of Cynar and Montenegro. Recipe coming soon – sign up for our newsletter to get it.