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The Manhattan

by CRAFTR team

History of the classic American apéritif

Recipe articles history of cocktails

The Manhattan


As legend has it, the Manhattan was created in the Manhattan Club, NYC in 1874 for Lady Randolph Churchill, Winston Churchill’s mother, at a dinner for Presidential candidate, Samuel Tilden. The success of the banquet and the attendance of New York socialites meant that the Manhattan spread like wildfire throughout NYC with many people asking for the “Manhattan’s cocktail” after the club where it was founded.

As with many of these cocktail origin stories, they need to be taken with a pinch of salt. Lady Randolph wasn’t in New York in 1874, instead living in France pregnant with an unborn Winston Churchill. Instead, many believe that it was created by a bar on Broadway near Houston St. in NYC.

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Making The Manhattan


Whisky, vermouth, bitters


One of the oldest cocktails, the Manhattan is the classic American aperitif, with the perfect balance of whisky to vermouth to bitters. Similar to the Old Fashioned, the type of whisky used is crucial to taste and ultimately comes down to individual preference. Originally made with rye whisky, many prefer bourbon which brings an additional sweetness to the drink on top of the sweet vermouth, vs. rye, which today many find too harsh. Others prefer blended Canadian whisky, which was preferred during Prohibition due to its availability, which brings a subtler smoothness vs. the intensity of a bourbon or rye.

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Many also mix up the vermouth. Whilst the original Manhattan used sweet vermouth, there’s the option to swap it for a dry vermouth, or why not use both to create what’s often referred to as a ‘Perfect Manhattan’. The classic Manhattan has 50ml whisky, 25ml sweet vermouth, 2-3 dashes Angostura bitters and is stirred over ice (we prefer for 2-3 minutes). Traditionally, a Manhattan is served straight-up in a cocktail glass but could be served over ice in an old-fashioned glass to dilute and chill it further, and can be garnished with either a cherry or lemon twist. Check out some of our favourites on the left from @cocktaildetour and @libertytavern


The Manhattan can be switched up in any number of different ways to fit your preferences, swapping a rye for a bourbon, Angostura bitters for Peychaud’s, or adding new ingredients such as green Chartreuse or other liqueurs.

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