If the Martini is perfection through simplicity, then the Manhattan is the pinnacle of sophistication. Dating back about as far as any cocktail, the Manhattan was invented sometime around 1860. Like any old recipe, stories conflict concerning its exact origins, but general consensus agrees that the drink is named for The Manhattan Club in New York City.
2 oz whiskey (traditionally rye)
½ oz sweet vermouth
2 dashes bitters
Fill a mixing glass halfway with ice and add the whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. Stir thoroughly and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the maraschino cherry.
Older recipes stipulated the use of American whiskey which, as we mentioned in our review of (ri)1 whiskey, was predominantly rye whiskey before the onset of prohibition. Hence the Manhattan is traditionally made with rye, though bourbon or Canadian whiskey are also acceptable.
You may notice that this recipe yields a rather small drink at 2 ½ oz (most recipes we post here yield around 4 oz). This is characteristic of older recipes and many modern boozehounds will scale these up to more generous proportions. For the Manhattan though, I generally find it best to keep volume small. This drink has a lot going on both in alcohol content and flavor.
The Manhattan is a drink that demands an appreciation for whiskey, especially when made with rye. It is a cocktail that should be sipped slowly, thoughtfully, and with the veneration due to our elders.