Three Parts- The Manhattan

Three Parts is a column inspired by the Jack Rose Society- a group of bartenders in Boston that set out to test classic cocktail recipes until they landed on their favourite iteration. The concept is simple- we ask three bartenders to provide their preferred recipe for one classic cocktail. This week we’re changing it up a bit and we’re asking cocktail writers and historians to weigh in on their favourite specs for a classic Manhattan.

David Wondrich
Cocktail Historian
Author- Imbibe!, Punch: The Delights and Dangers of the Flowing Bowl

“The Manhattan is not something I screw around with. Here’s my basic one, which I think is impossible to beat:

Stir well with cracked ice:

2 oz Wild Turkey 101 rye or Rittenhouse rye
1 oz Cocchi vermouth di Torino or Martini & Rossi red vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Strain into chilled cocktail glass and twist a swatch of thin-cut lemon peel over the top.

So this is a standard 2-1-2 Manhattan. But I’m not the most consistent of sorts, so I do like to vary it. Sometimes I add 1 dash of absinthe. Sometimes I make it the Manhattan Club’s way:

Stir well with cracked ice:

1 1/2 oz Wild Turkey 101 rye or Rittenhouse rye
1 1/2 oz Cocchi vermouth di Torino or Martini & Rossi red vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters (I use “Feegans” or Hermes, from Japan)

Strain into chilled cocktail glass and twist a swatch of thin-cut lemon peel over the top.

The standard 2-1-2, if you use a good, strong rye, manages to blend perfectly so no one ingredient dominates (I will never, ever use Carpano Antica in my Manhattans for this reason: it asserts its sweet vanilla nature far too much to blend). At the same time, it’s still a strong, forthright drink, where you can taste the rye.

The Manhattan Club version is also nice: the whiskey is less noticeable, but the vermouth doesn’t have the whole dancefloor to itself. The orange bitters make for a softer drink.

Shanna Farrell
Oral Historian, Berkeley
Author- Bay Area Cocktails: A History of Culture, Community and Craft

2 oz rye (playing around with different expressions is the fun of this recipe)
.5 oz sweet vermouth (either Cocchi Torino or Vermut Lacuesta)
.5 oz Nardini amaro
3 dashes orange bitters
Garnish with an expressed orange peel

“When I was first discovering amaro, we had Nardini on the shelf at the bar where I was working. It was my gateway to amaro-land and I haven’t looked back. I found it’s chocolate notes, hints of black liquorice, and hit of orange and gentian to be a lovely balance with the bitterness. Nardini remains one of my favorites because of its versatility—it’s delightful to sip neat, over ice, or mixed in a cocktail. As a rye drinker, I like to add it to my Manhattans to round out the spice from the spirit and give the drink some subtle complexity. The orange bitters bring it all together, and the orange essence give it an enticing aroma. Just typing this makes me want one. Too bad it’s 10am.”

Robert Simonson
Drinks+Liquor Writer- The New York Times
Author- Three-Ingredient Cocktails, The Proper Drink

2 ounces rye whiskey
1 ounce sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass filled with ice and stir until chilled, about 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.

“I drink a lot of Manhattans, and, while I have set proportions—which are classical in nature—I am not locked into specific brands of whiskey or vermouth. The Manhattan is a very democratic cocktail. Any decent expression of bourbon or rye, or sweet vermouth, can play and expect a decent degree of success. You don’t need top shelf whiskey, or rare or overproof stuff. Accessible and affordable brands of bourbon or rye will perform just fine. Same goes for the vermouth. While I drink bourbon Manhattans and rye Manhattans is equal numbers, I prefer the rye. Rye adds a necessary zip and spice to the mix. Rittenhouse, Sazerac, Knob Creek, Bulleit and Wild Turkey 101 are all fine. For the vermouth, I’ve used Dolin, Martini & Rossi and Noilly Prat. They all work. The resulting Manhattans all differ slightly is character, but none are bad. In ratios, however, I am unswerving. Two parts whiskey to one part vermouth. Always. And Angostura bitters. No other brand of bitters. Finally, the cherry must be homemade. It makes an enormous difference. Homemade cherries are very easy to make. They are worth the small effort that is required. And once you’ve made a decent-sized batch, you’re set for Manhattans for the rest of the year.”