Manhattan Cocktail

When it comes to classic cocktails, few can rival the timeless elegance and sophistication of the Manhattan. This iconic drink has been a staple of cocktail culture for well over a century, with its origins shrouded in mystery and its popularity enduring through the ages. While the classic Manhattan is undeniably beloved, the world of mixology has seen the birth of numerous exciting variations over the years. In this article, we will take a journey through the diverse and delightful world of Manhattan cocktail varieties.

Before we dive into the myriad of Manhattan variations, let’s first understand the foundation of this beloved cocktail. The classic Manhattan is a simple yet exquisite blend of rye or bourbon whiskey, sweet vermouth, and a few dashes of Angostura bitters. It’s typically garnished with a maraschino cherry or a twist of orange peel. The combination of these ingredients creates a beautifully balanced cocktail that’s both robust and smooth, making it a favorite for whiskey aficionados and cocktail enthusiasts alike.

The Classic Manhattan

The history of the Manhattan cocktail is shrouded in legend, but one popular theory attributes its creation to a bartender named Julian “Pete” Grosholz in the early 1870s at the Manhattan Club in New York City. Regardless of its exact origins, the Manhattan has stood the test of time as a true classic.

Now, let’s explore some intriguing Manhattan cocktail variations that put unique twists on this timeless favorite.

Reverse Manhattan

The Reverse Manhattan cocktail is a delightful twist on the classic Manhattan. It swaps the proportions of sweet and dry vermouth, using more dry vermouth than sweet. This variation brings a lighter, drier, and slightly more bitter flavor profile to the drink, complementing the whiskey’s richness. Garnished with a maraschino cherry, the Reverse Manhattan offers a sophisticated and well-balanced cocktail experience for those who appreciate a more complex and nuanced Manhattan variation.

The Perfect Manhattan

The Perfect Manhattan is a subtle variation on the classic recipe. In this version, both sweet and dry vermouth are used, creating a “perfect” balance of flavors. The recipe typically includes equal parts of sweet and dry vermouth, along with the whiskey and bitters. This results in a more complex and layered flavor profile, with the dry vermouth adding a touch of herbal and slightly bitter notes to the drink.

Black Manhattan

For those looking to add an extra layer of complexity and depth to their Manhattan, the Black Manhattan is a superb choice. In this variation, Averna, a rich and herbal Italian amaro, replaces the sweet vermouth. This addition imparts a dark, earthy, and slightly bitter quality to the cocktail, making it a favorite among those who appreciate a more adventurous palate.

Brooklyn Cocktail

The Brooklyn cocktail is another cousin of the Manhattan, and it’s known for its unique twist on the classic formula. Rye whiskey is still the star of the show, but it’s accompanied by dry vermouth, maraschino liqueur, and Amer Picon, a bittersweet French aperitif. The result is a cocktail with a more complex and fruity character, offering a delightful departure from the traditional Manhattan.


The Greenpoint is a modern Manhattan variation that emerged from the eponymous Brooklyn neighborhood. It combines rye whiskey with yellow Chartreuse, sweet vermouth, and a dash of Angostura bitters. The Chartreuse, a herbal liqueur, imparts a distinctive botanical and slightly spicy note to the cocktail. The Greenpoint is an excellent choice for those seeking a Manhattan with a unique and vibrant flavor profile.


The Harvard cocktail is a cousin of the Manhattan that utilizes cognac instead of whiskey as its base spirit. This change brings a smoother and fruitier character to the drink. It’s typically mixed with sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters, and a lemon twist for garnish. The Harvard is an excellent option for those who appreciate the elegance of cognac in their cocktails.

Rob Roy

The Rob Roy is essentially a Scotch whisky version of the Manhattan. It’s made with Scotch whisky, sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters, garnished with a cherry or lemon twist. The choice of Scotch whisky imparts a distinct smokiness and complexity to the cocktail, making it a delightful deviation from the classic.

Red Hook

The Red Hook is a Manhattan variation that pays homage to the vibrant neighborhood in Brooklyn. It combines rye whiskey with Punt e Mes, a robust Italian vermouth with a bitter edge, and maraschino liqueur. The result is a cocktail with a bittersweet complexity and a subtle cherry note, making it a favorite among cocktail enthusiasts seeking a unique twist on the Manhattan.

Little Italy

The Little Italy cocktail is a Manhattan variation that celebrates the Italian influence on New York City. It blends rye whiskey with Cynar, an artichoke-based amaro, and sweet vermouth. This combination offers a harmonious balance of herbal and bittersweet flavors, creating a Manhattan with a distinctly Italian flair.

The Manhattan cocktail, with its rich history and timeless appeal, has inspired countless variations that cater to a wide range of tastes. From the classic Manhattan to the intriguing twists like the Perfect Manhattan, Black Manhattan, and the Brooklyn cocktail, there’s a Manhattan variation for everyone. Whether you prefer the traditional elegance of the original recipe or the adventurous spirit of its creative descendants, the world of Manhattan cocktails offers an exciting journey through the art of mixology. So, the next time you’re in the mood for a classic cocktail with a twist, consider exploring the diverse and delightful world of Manhattan cocktail varieties. Cheers!