Vintage Cocktails: THE MANHATTAN


Current cocktail trends are doing a time warp towards great vintage cocktails, bringing a big resurgence in Post-Edwardian, pre and post Prohibition, Tiki and even sixties and seventies drinks to happy hour.  Interestingly, I seem to be right in tune with this retro kick and have been revisiting some of my favorite classic cocktail recipes for a while now, especially those involving whiskey. Probably a backlash from all my tinkering with those flavored vodkas back when I first got interested in cocktailing.

I particularly love a Manhattan. It's a classic cocktail whose origins are, like many vintage drinks, clouded in the mists of time. The first full written recipe occurred in 1884 in The Modern Bartenders' Guide but a reference was made in 1882 in The Sunday New Morning Herald of a whiskey, vermouth and bitters drink that was referred to alternately as a Manhattan, a Turf Club cocktail and a Jockey Club cocktail. 

Many vintage recipes called for a bit of maraschino liqueur and a few even popped up using absinthe and many used gum syrup (simple syrup with gum arabic) as well. Below is today's accepted standard recipe.

The original drink was most likely made with rye whiskey, as it was highly favored in New York in the 1800s. It is my preferred whiskey for a Manhattan as well, but others have used Canadian whiskeys and even Bourbon. As far as I'm concerned, the sweet vermouth isn't up for play.  If you use dry vermouth you have a Dry Manhattan and equal parts sweet and dry give you a Perfect Manhattan, just like you have in the Martini. See below for additional variations, including a couple of my own recipes.

Manhattan Recipe with Ingredients & Instructions


2 Oz. Rye Whiskey
3/4 Oz. Sweet Vermouth
2 Dashes of Angostura Bitters

Garnish: Cocktail Cherry

Fill a mixing glass with ice.
Add ingredients.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish and serve.

Voiceover Video with Ingredients and Instructions: 

  • Rob Roy, made with Scotch Whiskey instead of Rye
  • Dry Manhattan which uses Dry Vermouth in place of Sweet
  • Brandy Manhattan which is made with Brandy instead of Rye
  • Royal Manhattan which uses Crown Royal instead of Rye
  • Ruby Manhattan, made with port rather than vermouth
  • Metropolitan which is a Brandy Manhattan with a ratio of 3:1 cognac or brandy to vermouth
  • The Chocolate Manhattan is a favorite way of mine for bringing in some chocolate to the mix. 
  • The You Don't Need A Man, You Need A Manhattan is another chocolate version with a very special cherrywood rye out of my old stomping grounds in Sonoma.

Get the MANHATTAN COCKTAIL RECIPE ART on Posters & Prints, Party & Bar Supplies, Cards & More:
Get the MANHATTAN COCKTAIL RECIPE ART on Posters & Prints, Party & Bar Supplies, Cards & More:

Updated 3-2022

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