How to Make the Perfect Manhattan

Manhattan cocktail in a glass garnished with cherry

The Manhattan is one of the heavyweights in the cocktail world with a twist on the old-fashioned, impelled by sweet vermouth’s arrival. Earning popularity in the United States in the late 19th century, this drink was invented at the Manhattan Club, with a unique recipe that stands out from other popular beverages. At Columbia Distributing, we provide a range of fine beverages from across different brands to your favorite retailer, restaurant, or bar across Oregon and Washington. Here, we explore the Manhattan and how to make the perfect one.

What Is a Manhattan?

The Manhattan is a cocktail derived from whiskey, bitters, and sweet vermouth mixed, then strained into a cocktail glass and prettified with a maraschino cherry, creating an iconic silhouette. Although rye was mainly used for whiskey in the past, most mixologists today consider Canadian whiskey, Tennessee favorites, bourbon, and blended releases for Manhattan drinks. In addition, the perfect combination of dry and sweet vermouth to the classic Manhattan results in a delightful dinner drink, whether you appreciate it before, during, or after the meal.

Perfect Manhattan Recipe

The perfect Manhattan relies on a unique flavor profile, which sets it apart from other distinguished drinks. If you want to make a cocktail like a pro, here is what you need to make the perfect Manhattan.


  • 2 oz. whiskey
  • 1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 oz. dry vermouth
  • 1-2 dashes of aromatic bitters or 3 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • Maraschino cherry for garnish
  • Ice

Steps to making the perfect Manhattan

  1. Gather the ingredients.
  2. Using a cocktail shaker or mixing glass, fill it with ice and pour in the whiskey, sweet vermouth, and dry vermouth, and then add a few dashes of bitters.
  3. Stir thoroughly for at least 30 seconds.
  4. Strain the mixture into a chilled cocktail glass.
  5. Garnish the cocktail with a maraschino cherry and serve.

Tips for Making the Perfect Manhattan

Have the Right Tools

Making a Manhattan does not require fancy tools, but it is essential to have the necessary items for the best results. Before making your perfect cocktail, ensure you have a mixing glass, a strainer, a proper bar spoon, and a jigger. In addition, have your favorite cocktail glass ready for when you serve the drink.

Choose Your Preferred Whiskey

With several types of whiskey ideal for making the perfect Manhattan, your choice will largely determine the drink’s overall taste. Using a robust, high-proof whiskey might be the best choice since it cuts through the vermouth. On the other hand, bourbon rich in rye will give your drink a spicier foundation, while bourbons distilled with a portion of wheat create a softer cocktail. Nonetheless, rye is the traditional choice, but most bartenders today use bourbon since its popularity has grown. Even so, some drinkers prefer Canadian or Tennessee whiskey. Having so many options means you can experiment until you find the right whiskey and brand to suit your tastes.

Use Any Vermouth

Although some drinkers prefer sweet vermouth from one brand and dry vermouth from another, you can use any brand of vermouth to prepare the perfect Manhattan. Even professional bartenders disagree about which sweet and dry vermouths to use for a Manhattan, so it really is a matter of taste. Fortunately, most vermouth brands are relatively inexpensive, meaning you can experiment with different combinations until you find the right one.

Garnish However You Like

Making the perfect Manhattan relies on how the mixture blends, and the garnish you choose can play a big part in this. Traditionally, a Maraschino cherry is used, but consider adding a lemon peel instead of or in addition to the cherry to add an extra zing to the cocktail. Finally, when glazing your drink, consider natural, undyed maraschino cherries to create the perfect garnish.

Should the Manhattan Be Shaken or Stirred?

Generally, liquor-only cocktails should never be shaken. Instead, they should be stirred for at least 30 seconds. This includes all Manhattans and martinis, although some drinkers may prefer shaking a Manhattan to add dilution and air to the cocktail.

Learn More About the Manhattan and Other Cocktails from Columbia Distributing

Making the perfect Manhattan begins with having the right tools and investing in high-quality ingredients, particularly when it comes to the choice of whiskey. Whether you’re looking to prepare your favorite Manhattan for your enjoyment or starting to become a pro mixologist, Columbia Distributing can help. We have a range of non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages from different brands that are delivered right to your preferred retailer and favorite restaurant or bar in Oregon and Washington. Contact us today to learn more about the best brands to use in your Manhattans and other cocktails.