“As for the Sophisticated Lady, draw the blinds and curtains and turn up the lamplight. Her make-up will look better that way and even you will be happier…..To impress her, a copy of Who’s Who is the thing, but if you can’t find an old one at a second-hand bookstore, settle for Queen or the New Yorker. Tell her the drink is ready and hand her a Manhattan.”

The Seducer’s Cookbook, Mimi Sheraton


Well – when in Rome…eat as the Romans, and when in Manhattan, as I am now, …drink Manhattan cocktails.

Invented in New York in the late stages of the nineteenth century, the Manhattan featured on the bar menus of great ocean liners of the Luisitania and Mauretania ilk. In the dawn of the next century it was well enough known in England to appear as a classic cocktail in Mrs Beeton’s tome on managing the perfect household.

How to do it? Well – I like to be authentic, but I am also a great fan of bitters, so my ideal Manhattan is a compromise.


Rye or bourbon?

Originally the Manhattan was made with rye rather than bourbon (post on the difference in the pipeline) and, since rye is sharper, spicier, bitterer and packs more of a punch than bourbon I’m happy to go with that.


How to balance out the sweet vermouth

But rather than balance out the sweet vermouth with dry, I prefer to redress the balance with extra bitters.


What about the cherry?

I accept that a maraschino cherry is a new-fangled introduction with all the finesse of a cannon ball but nevertheless it’s good to have a bit of colour and drama in a cocktail, so I’m happy to plump instead for an amarena cherry (small, dark and slightly sour from Bologna).


Which bitters?

Some people only use orange bitters… but I think that makes it a little too fruity and cloying so I prefer a mix of orange (Ideally Dr Adam Elmegirab’s Spanish Bitters, or Regan’s No 6) and Angostura bitters.


manhattan cocktail

manhattan cocktail with cannon ball finesse

This is how do it:


Recipe for an improved Manhattan Cocktail


For one


  • 4 tbsp rye whiskey
  • 2 tbsp sweet red vermouth
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 dashes Regan’s No 6 orange bitters
  • 1 amarena cherry


  1. Mix all together with some ice and then strain into a glass.
  2. Drop in the cherry


However – there is one intriguing take on the Manhattan which I really like, and that is to make a Dry Martini – using bourbon, Cocchi Americano and orange bitters. Go to Fogged in Lounge to find out how.

Alternatively you could try a sloe version – follow this link (and go to the bottom of the post) for more on that.


Listen to the music of Manhattan Transfer (below) while you’re mixing it… and enjoying it.


how to make a Manhattan cocktail

Fantastic view of Manhattan from the Chanel offices



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