The Manhattan Perfect For Any Occasion

June 19, 2015

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Today: A different, lighter take on the Manhattan for you to commit to memory.


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Adam Sachs once gave me the best first date advice I’d ever heard. He gave it to you, too, on the fourth episode of our podcast, Burnt Toast. Were you listening? 

When meeting someone for the first time, he said, arrive at the bar early and order a Manhattan. He called it an internal icebreaker, and that’s exactly what it is: It marks the place in time between where your day ends and your date begins; it lets you settle in. That sitting at a dim, city bar with a Manhattan and a magazine is incredibly romantic and cool-looking is just an added bonus, though a welcome one: You are about to be on a first date, right? 

But Manhattans are much more than an internal ice breaker, and though I recommend they be consumed often in dim city bars on dates (whatever the number), they by no means should stay there. In the past few weeks, I’ve made Manhattans to bottle and take to a party because I was out of beer; I’ve made them so I could pull down the rarely-used coupes up on my shelves. I’ve made a Manhattan just so I could eat the cherries. And if I were going to be within striking distance of my hometown this Sunday, I’d probably stir one up for my dad. 

This cocktail can be anything to anyone—especially if you use equal parts sweet and dry vermouth, as this “perfect Manhattan” does, which unbuttons the dark, boozy collar of a regular Manhattan just the right amount. Is it perfect? I don’t know if you’ll think it is, but I might make one soon to find out.

Perfect Manhattan

Serves 1

1 1/3 ounces Bulleit rye
1/3 ounce sweet vermouth
1/3 ounce dry vermouth
2 dashes bitters
Maraschino cherries, for garnish 

See the full recipe (and print and save it) here. 

Photos by Bobbi Lin

We’re strong proponents of having a good home bar. Welcome to Cocktail Hour, where we’ll show you the best ways to put your liquor cabinet to use. This cocktail is brought to you by


See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • John
  • Bro
  • annenapolitano
  • C
  • Alan Christensen
    Alan Christensen
Kenzi Wilbur

Written by: Kenzi Wilbur

I have a thing for most foods topped with a fried egg, a strange disdain for overly soupy tomato sauce, and I can never make it home without ripping off the end of a newly-bought baguette. I like spoons very much.


John September 17, 2015
I have been drinking Manhattans for more years that I want to admit and prefer Peychaud's bitters to Angostura. You might also want to try adding a dash of Benedictine to this recipe.
Bro September 16, 2015
Manhattans are my go to drink. The only difference is I always use Canadian Rye, and if the liquor store has it in stock, Antica Formula red vermouth (the oldest and first vermouth company in the world). For the cherries, pass on the dye red ones found in the baking section or ice cream section of the store. If you aren't prepared to make your own then Luxardo, for example, makes a spectacular maraschino cherry, a true example of the original. Other people swear by the product by Toschi Amarena, although I've never tried them. Both can be found at on-line Italian grocery stores.
annenapolitano June 20, 2015
I bought a 2-liter whisky barrel online and made a big batch of manhattans. I keep it aging on my counter; a manhattan is always available!
C June 19, 2015
where do you get maraschino cherries that aren't neon red? I cannot seem to find cherries made with real ingredients.
annenapolitano June 20, 2015
Tillen Farm cherries are available on Amazon. Great flavor.
Alan C. June 19, 2015
What kind of bitters did you use? Angostura? I have a few different brands of both aromatic and orange bitters in my liquor cabinet and am making a batch of rhubarb bitters (fingers crossed!).
Author Comment
Kenzi W. June 19, 2015
Yes, Angostura! But feel free to swap in any other kind of orange bitters. My feeling is that rhubarb might be a bit too delicate to make a showing in this drink, but if you try it let me know how it is! (And good luck with your batch!)
Alan C. June 19, 2015
I will. I have found a couple cocktail recipes involving rhubarb bitters. Manhattans are my go-to cocktail; I usually do a dash of aromatic and a dash of orange bitters.
Alan C. June 19, 2015
By the way, Rachel Christensen is my daughter-in-law.
Author Comment
Kenzi W. June 19, 2015
I was guessing :). Welcome! Happy to be chatting cocktails with you.
Alan C. July 4, 2015
My rhubarb bitters turned out great. I have a couple recipes for different cocktails but tried them in a Manhattan with pretty good results. A restaurant near us has a drink called a Bitter Bee's Knees with rhubarb bitters, gin, lemon juice, and honey syrup that was quite good.