We’ve gone through quite a few of these “Have a Drink” articles without hitting upon one of the most obvious classics of the cocktail world. Along with the Martini, the Daiquiri, and the Margarita, the Manhattan is one of the quintessential cocktails that’s practically synonymous with its base liquor (in this case: American whiskey, either rye or bourbon).
The Manhattan’s origins are unknown. A popular story is that it was invented in the 1870s by Dr. Iain Marshall at the Manhattan Club in New York. However, references to a nearly identical book predate that era, and the reason for the drink’s invention is a likely made-up social event. The drink’s original creator is likely lost to history, but what we do know is that by the time Prohibition rolled around, it was well-established among cocktail aficionados. It’s remained basically the same ever since, and with good reason: it’s perfect.
I like to use a spicier vermouth in Manhattans, something with a little more kick to it than Noilly Prat or Dolin. Punt e Mes is great, as is Cocchi or Carpano Antica. I am equally happy with either rye or bourbon in my Manhattans, but you’ll find people on both sides of the argument who will argue to the death that one is superior to the other. My suggestion: experiment to determine what you like best. Just make sure not to leave out the bitters; they really make a huge difference in the final drink.
This article is a modified and enhanced version of a post that ran on my nightly cocktail blog, DrinkShouts. Liquors in parentheses are what I used when I made this recipe, and are included as suggestions.