Manhattan (SWEET) – David Embury

1 part Italian Vermouth

2 parts Whisky

1 dash angostura to each drink

As above noted some recipes call for equal parts of whisky and vermouth, and some for other proportions.

The sweet Manhattan made without bitters but with both orange peel and lemon peel in the mixture and shaken instead of stirred is called the ARMY

The plain sweet Manhattan made half and half is sometimes called the NAVY


Embury lists the Manhattan among his 6 basic cocktails as at the time of writing he states ‘there are more Martini’s and Manhattans sold than any other cocktail, in fact is we leave out Daiquiri’s and Old Fashioned’s, there are more sold than all the other kinds put together’

This just like all cocktails has changed its shape dramatically over its life, the earliest reference I have to it is in William Schmidt’s 1891 book ‘the flowing bowl’, this has a recipe with added gum syrup, maraschino and absinthe to the classic recipe, which we use as our recipe in the Chelsea Prayer Room here at Goat. The absinthe adds extra depth of flavour and bitterness, which is balanced by the gum syrup, and I love absinthe and whisky as a combination.

I like to think that this maraschino morphed into the cherry on a stick, the absinthe vanished, and the gum followed suit with no absinthe to balance.

I remember when I started bartending someone defined this drink as being the opposite of a Martini, especially the early Martinez, and I can’t help but assume that this is where it started. Bartenders can be a little lazy with drink recipes, if a drink works with one base spirit we’ll often play around with the same supporting parts and change the base spirit.

It doesn’t appear in the original Jerry Thomas, but does pop up in the Herbert Asbury 1928 re-vamp, and still looks fairly similar, retaining the maraschino (still no cherry), the whiskey is defined as rye in this one. I was taught to use Canadian Club in NZ many years ago, as this is a rye based whiskey, and this was long before rye whiskey from the states became popular again.

And is it whiskey or whisky? The ‘ey’ is the Irish spelling, where as the ‘y’ is Scottish. I was taught that America whiskey is spelled that way as most of the earlier immigrants / distillers where Irish, and not s long ago the only American whiskey spelled with just the ‘y’ was Makers Mark, and this was because the distillers were of Scottish descent.

The Waldorf has the recipe trimmed further 3 years later, and looking more like Embury’s version, with the only difference being the bitters.

So who invented it? The story that used to do the rounds until someone checked it was that it was created at a party in the Manhattan Club in New York for a party hosted by Lady Randolph Churchill in 1870, a story propagated by the Manhattan Club, which I believe is still around today. However. At the time of the alleged party lady Randolph was heavy pregnant / giving birth to the baby Winston, so its dubious at best. The more plausible and entirely less romantic story is that it was ‘invented by a man named Black’ in deepest darkest ‘Gangs of New York’ land in 1860. Yup, who invented it? A guy in a bar.

Years ago I remember that Woodford Reserve used to do a ‘Manhattan’s in Manhattan’ crawl, I decided that Manhattans in Moscow had a nice polarising ring to it.

We went for dinner at a delicious restaurant called Voronezh, specialising in Russian produce, in particular about 20 different cuts of steak, and a long cocktail list to match, the food was really special, and the drink not far behind.

After we went to Mendeleev, a speakeasy bar / club, the entrance was very similar to La Esquina in New York, dodgy food bar on the ground floor, security in the corner at the back, stairs down to an underground arched ceiling labyrinth of a place with two long bars with excellent bartenders turning out classics, and more modern variants served over hand cut ice with Tesla tubes and dry ice backing this up alongside banging house music. Very impressed with the service and quality of staff here, I ordered a Manhattan here, and then asked for ‘bartenders choice’ which turned out to be a procession of all of my favourite drinks, from a Vieux Carre to a Boulevardier. We left very impressed.