Best Manhattan Variations

Best Manhattan Cocktail Recipes

The Manhattan is a cocktail of only three ingredients: rye or bourbon whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. The combination of flavors is so complex, that it lends to endless variations, taking advantage of the spice of the rye or bourbon whiskey to bring out bold flavors in the bitters, and contrasting sweetness in the vermouth.

The Classic

Classic Manhattans general use Rye whiskey before sweeter Bourbon whiskey cocktails became popular. If you go the Bourbon route, Woodford Reserve makes a good, dry whiskey whose flavors bring out the best in the classic Manhattan. For a Manhattan with a smoother, softer flavor you can substitute Canadian whiskey.


  • 2 ounces rye whiskey
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 2 to 3 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • Cherry for garnish

To make a classic Manhattan, simply pour the ingredients into a mixing glass with ice and stir. Strain the mixture into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry. If you’re feeling tropical, an orange peel or twist works just as well.

Garnish with the cherry. (Orange peel or twist works as well)

The Clint Eastwood

This variation on a Manhattan is named after everyone’s favorite spaghetti Western star and director, perhaps because he liked the drink or perhaps because the bitter punch of the Chartreuse and bitters causes drinkers to adopt the expression of a gunslinger squinting into the sunset. This bitterness is offset by the rye whiskey, which draws out some of the sweetness of the ingredients.


  • 2 ounces rye whiskey
  • ¼ ounce demerara syrup
  • ¾ teaspoon Angostura bitters
  • ¾ teaspoon Green Chartreuse
  • Orange peel for garnish.

To make a Clint Eastwood, combine the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain the mixture into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with an orange peel.


The Greenpoint keeps all the classic Manhattan ingredients, but adds high-proof green Chartreuse and orange bitters. The Greenpoint is named after the hip Brooklyn neighborhood where it was originally served and after the color of the chartreuse. High proof rye whiskey does best in this cocktail. Opt for 100-plus-proof rye like Wild Turkey or Rittenhouse. If this isn’t enough to cut the bitterness of the Chartreuse, you can substitute mellower yellow Chartreuse.


  • 2 oz Rye Whiskey
  • 1⁄2 oz green Chartreuse
  • 1⁄2 oz Sweet vermouth
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • 1 dash Orange bitters
  • Twist of lemon for garnish

To mix a Greenpoint, add all the ingredients to a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir until chilled then strain the mixture into a chilled cocktail glass. Serve with a lemon twist.

Rob Roy

This Scottish twist on the Manhattan substitutes Scotch whiskey (try it with Chivas Regal) from the land of the outlaw and folk hero for which the drink is named. In addition to using Scotch instead of rye whiskey, the Rob Roy substitutes traditional bitters for orange bitters.


  • 2 oz Scotch
  • ¾ oz sweet vermouth
  • 3 dashes orange bitters
  • Brandied cherries for garnish

To make the Rob Roy, follow the traditional Manhattan route: add all the ingredients to a mixer with ice, stir, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with 2 speared brandied cherries.

Black Manhattan

The Black Manhattan takes the traditional ingredients of a classic Manhattan, which already weren’t the brightest, and presents them with a darker, bittersweet twist. The trick is substituting the sweet vermouth with Amaro Averna, an Italian sweet liqueur with a bitter finish. The resulting flavor is a bittersweet alternative to the classic Manhattan. If the bitterness of the original recipe is too much, you can try using bourbon to bring out more of the sweetness of the Averna.


  • 2 oz. rye whiskey
  • 1 oz. Averna
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • Cherry for garnish

To make the Black Manhattan, stir the ingredients with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a cherry.

Remember the Maine

The Remember the Maine is taken from journalist Charles H. Baker’s classic “The Gentleman’s Companion,” a two-volume work describing Baker’s travels with food and drink recipes. This particular recipe is named after the Maine mysteriously exploded off the coast of then-Spanish-controlled Cuba, prompting journalists to take up the cry, “Remember the Maine, to Hell with Spain.” Baker remembers the drink as part of Cuba’s 1933 revolution, when he was in Havana, writing: “REMEMBER the MAINE, a Hazy Memory of a Night in Havana during the Unpleasantnesses of 1933, when Each Swallow Was Punctuated with Bombs Going off on the Prado, or the Sound of 3″ Shells Being Fired at the Hotel NACIONAL, then Haven for Certain Anti-Revolutionary Officers.”

In commemoration, Baker added to cherry liquor and absinthe to the Manhattan/Sazerac hybrid. The cherry liqueur lends a subtle sweetness the absinthe and rye bite.


  • 2 ounces rye whiskey
  • 3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 2 teaspoons Cherry Heering liqueur
  • 1/2 teaspoon absinthe
  • Cherry for garnish

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry.

Best Whiskies for Manhattans

Rye whiskey is usually used for Manhattans, because its spicy flavors mix well with the selection of bitters and vermouths that give the Manhattan its infamous bite. High alcohol content is another must for such a liquor-forward cocktail.

Rittenhouse Rye Bottled in Bond

Rittenhouse is the classic choice for Manhattans. It contains the perfect level of Rye spice to complement the bitters, and a subtle addition of fruit, which gets along well with the vermouth. At $25 a bottle, you don’t have to feel shy about experimenting with new cocktail recipes.

Wild Turkey 101 Rye

Wild Turkey 101 Rye, is a basic rye whiskey done well. It isn’t weighed down with unnecessary flavors and because of this, along with its high proof, it is a perfect choice for Manhattans. Wild Turkey also makes an 85 proof version, which is OK if you can’t find Wild Turkey 101, as it can be a bit scarce. Because of this scarcity, the price per bottle fluctuates, but is generally around $30.

Four Roses Small Batch

If you’re more of a fan of Bourbon in your Manhattans, Four Roses Small Batch is a blended bourbon whose rye spice fits perfectly into a Manhattan. The blend is also subtly complex, and great for a sipping bourbon if you aren’t in the mood to pour something more than once. In addition to this, Four Roses Small Batch is easy on the wallet, at $30 a bottle.