Rick Rodgers - cuisine americane

The Perfect Manhattan Cocktail

dreamstime_xs_21255322.jpgWith the Mad Men premiere on its way, I am feeling very Don Draper these days (I wish people would quit mistaking me for Jon Hamm!)  The Manhattan is a retro cocktail that is re-establishing itself.  It has long been one of my favorites, but in recent years, I have been improving the drink by using high-quality ingredients.  A Manhattan only has three ingredients, so they had better be great, as each  flavor is strong.  The traditional garnish is a maraschino cherry, and even that can be upgraded.  Here's how I make the best Manhattan around...



Makes 1 drink


Here’s the original formula:

2 ounces bourbon or rye whiskey

1 ounce sweet vermouth

2 or 3 dashes aromatic bitters

Preserved cherry, for garnish


Chill a cocktail glass.  Half fill a cocktail shaker with ice.  Add the whiskey, vermouth, and bitters.  Stir well.  Strain into the glass.  Add the cherry and serve.

Four Roses Single Barrel2.jpg


I have come to prefer the more rounded flavor of bourbon to rye over the years.  I sip bourbon on its own, but only use rye for mixed drinks.  Four Roses, a venerable brand, has long been a favorite.  But when I found out that they are the only bourbon maker who uses non-GMA corn in their mash, I was convinced that my palate matched my politics.  The Single Barrel uses quite a bit of rye in the mash along with the corn, so even traditionalists who like rye whiskey in their Manhattan are likely to be satisfied. 

carpano antica.jpg


There is vermouth, and then there is Carpano Antica Formula.  This is the original Italian vermouth.  There was a time when Italian vermouth meant the red or sweet version, and French vermouth indicated the dry, white variety.  The Carpano family has been making this spicy, herbaceous vermouth since the late eighteenth century.  It vastly improves any cocktail that uses red vermouth, and is wonderful on the rocks with a twist as an aperitif. 



If you are new to being a home mixologist, you might not have bitters, and if you do, it is likely to be Angostura.  Nothing wrong with Angostura…it is just that there are bitters that are more flavorful.  Along with Regan’s Orange Number Five Bitters, my go-to bottle is Fee Brothers’ Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters.  It has spicy notes that are perfect with the bourbon and vermouth. 



Maraschino cherries—yech.  (OK, maybe when I order a Shirley Temple…as if!)  Look for Luxardo Marasca Cherries, which are imported from Italy in a thick cherry syrup.  American maraschinos are drained of all color and flavor, and then pumped with artificial replacements.  What the…?  You will have to force yourself from eating these out of the bottle.  And if you have ever considered doing the same with maraschino cherries, you have my sympathy. 

Kim  | June 24, 2012 12:54 PM

Awesome! I hope I can also do mixes like this one.
I better try and see how this taste, I never taste it before.

My blog : cadre photo original 

Linda  | December 26, 2012 8:37 PM

I had the most fabulous Manhattan at the Port Orleans Resprt in Walt Disney World in the beginning of December. I'd asked for a Sazerac [they were supposed to be New Orleans after all] and the bartenders didn't know what I was talking about!! So I chose the "Rye Manhattan" which was AbFab! It came with 3 cherries skewered on a pick and they were the most unusual, flavorful cherries I'd ever had. I asked the bartenders what they were and they showed me the Luxardo jar. Wow! I was hoping my hubby would order me a jar from Amazon for Xmas, but he forgot about them so I guess I have to do it. Not like any other cherries. Also, as I live in California, I do not see Four Roses brand alcohol out here. I guess I should check with BevMo or some such large liquor provider. Have you got any other choices for the rye? I've been using Jim Beam or Bulleitt because they are readily available. I LOVE old timey cocktails!!

BB  | January 27, 2013 9:17 PM

I used Knob Creek single barrel, the Carpano Antica, Regan's orange bitters, (quite a bit), and the luxanos. Without a doubt the best Manhattan recipe. Thank you for sharing your recipe.

cari pacar  | February 14, 2013 12:37 AM

it's great Cocktail, tastes good but what about the price?

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