Classic Whiskey Manhattan Recipe With Variations

Classic Manhattan cocktail with whiskey and garnished with cherries

​The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

Prep: 3 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 3 mins
Serving: 1 serving
Yield: 1 cocktail
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
191 Calories
0g Fat
7g Carbs
0g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1
Amount per serving
Calories 191
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 3mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 7g 2%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 5g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 1mg 6%
Calcium 4mg 0%
Iron 0mg 1%
Potassium 65mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

One of the finest and oldest cocktails, the Manhattan is truly a classic cocktail. It is a simple drink recipe of just a few ingredients: whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. You can choose between rye whiskey and bourbon, though some drinkers still prefer a smooth Canadian whisky. There is no doubt, however, that this is one of the essential whiskey cocktails that everyone should know.

The Manhattan is whiskey-forward, with the vermouth adding smooth, spiced sweetness and the bitters adding a little punch. As with the gin martini, there are many ways that you can adapt this classic recipe to your personal taste. It has also inspired countless variations, but before you give those a taste, it's best to start off with the original.

Choose Your Whiskey

The original Manhattan was made with rye whiskey. However, there was a period of time in the mid-to-late 1900s when rye was not readily available or high quality and it became common practice to use a Canadian whiskey. When bourbon began to reclaim headlines in the last decades of the 20th century, that became a popular choice and was the newly preferred whiskey for a Manhattan.

That said, the choice is ultimately yours because it is your drink. For a sweeter Manhattan, go with bourbon. When you're in the mood for a dry and semi-spicy Manhattan, rye whiskey would be the choice. On those days when a smooth, soft Manhattan sounds good, pick up a bottle of Canadian whiskey.

The Whiskey to Vermouth Ratio

Like the martini, each drinker will have their preferred ratio of whiskey to vermouth. The 2:1 in the recipe above is a good starting point and the most common mix for the Manhattan. Many drinkers also prefer a 4:1 mix with just 1/2 ounce of sweet vermouth for 2 ounces of whiskey. Play around with this ratio to find your personal idea of the perfect Manhattan. It's also likely that this will change depending on the particular whiskey you're pouring.

Don't Forget the Bitters

Aromatic bitters have long been the preferred accent for the Manhattan and it should be considered a required ingredient. Since we use just a few dashes at a time, it can be easy to forget their importance. However, they are the finishing touch that brings cocktails like the Manhattan into perfect balance. There are a number of new bitters available today and you might want to explore their effects on your perfect Manhattan mix.

No matter how you mix up your Manhattan, you will find that it's an ideal drink for any occasion. It is perfect for a dinner party and pairs nicely with a great variety of foods. It's also a fantastic drink for a casual night with friends.


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"The Manhattan is one of the greatest cocktails that exists, and one of my personal favorites. It is a picture of elegance and pristine simplicity. An absolute must for whiskey lovers. Feel free to explore difference ratios, different whiskeys, and different vermouths to find your Manhattan bliss point." —Tom Macy

Classic whiskey Manhattan in a glass
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 2 ounces rye whiskey or bourbon or Canadian whisky

  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth

  • 2 to 3 dashes aromatic bitters

  • Cherry, for garnish

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for a classic Manhattan cocktail gathered

    ​The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  2. Pour the whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters into a mixing glass with ice cubes.

    Whiskey poured into glass with ice

    ​The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  3. Stir well.

    Whiskey stirred with stirring spoon into glass with ice for Manhattan

    ​The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  4. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

    Whiskey Manhattan being strained into a glass through a cocktail strainer

    ​The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga 

  5. Garnish with the cherry. Serve and enjoy.

    Manhattan cocktail with whiskey garnished with cherries

    ​The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

Recipe Variations

The Manhattan has inspired countless cocktails over the years. You may also notice that many share only the whiskey in common with the original recipe. Just as the name "martini" is popular with fancy vodka and gin cocktails and "margarita" is a common choice for tequila cocktails, "Manhattan" has become synonymous with nearly any whiskey cocktail that's served "up."

  • Dry Manhattan: Use a dash of dry vermouth and garnish with a lemon twist.
  • Perfect Manhattan: Use equal parts sweet and dry vermouth and garnish with a lemon twist.
  • Rob Roy (aka Scotch Manhattan): This variation specifically calls for Scotch whisky.
  • Metropolitan (aka Brandy Manhattan): This cocktail replaces the whiskey with brandy.
  • Southern Comfort Manhattan: Use Southern Comfort instead of whiskey to get a hint of peach.

How to Make Manhattans for a Crowd

To make a large batch of Manhattans for a party, follow these steps:

  1. Make one Manhattan and measure its volume in ounces before and after stirring with ice and straining. The difference between the numbers is the amount of water that is incorporated into the drink.
  2. Multiply each ingredient, including the water, by the number of servings you want to make.
  3. For the bitters, divide the number you got in Step Two by 2. Bitters tend to become more pronounced over time in batched cocktails so you don't need to use as much.
  4. Use the resulting numbers to help you figure out how many bottles of each ingredient you'll need to buy. Remember that drinks are usually sold in 750mL bottles. 750mL is approximately 25 1/4 ounces.
  5. Once you have your ingredients, measure them out according to the math you did in Steps 2 and 3.
  6. Mix the ingredients together, place in a serving vessel, and chill well.
  7. To serve, measure out the amount of cocktail you recorded in step 1 after being stirred with ice and strained. Garnish and serve.

Read more about how to batch cocktails here.

How Strong Is a Manhattan?

The Manhattan is not a light cocktail. It is a very liquor-forward cocktail because it includes alcohol alone and is diluted with just a small amount of water during preparation. Assuming that an 80 proof whiskey is used, the average Manhattan is around 30 percent ABV (60 proof). This is just slightly weaker than a straight shot of that same whiskey, so take it easy with this one.

How Do You Order a Manhattan Drink?

When ordering a Manhattan at the bar, you may want to "call" your whiskey of choice. Most bars will have a house whiskey that they regularly use in the cocktail and it could be a rye, bourbon, or Canadian. You can always ask what they use and upgrade if you prefer something else. Be as specific as you like. For instance, you could either ask for a specific brand-Manhattan or a "bourbon Manhattan" (in this case you will get the house bourbon).

What Is the Difference Between a Manhattan and an Old-Fashioned?

Both classic whiskey cocktails, there are essential differences between a Manhattan and an old-fashioned. A Manhattan is a combination of whiskey and sweet vermouth with a few dashes of bitters. An old-fashioned is a mixture of bourbon or whiskey, sugar, and bitters (no vermouth).