5 Spins on the Classic
manhattan recipe 

While The Manhattan has had its ups and downs in popularity over the years, it has since cemented itself as a timeless cocktail classic. With a bittersweet taste presented and served in sophistication, The Manhattan is an ideal choice for any occasion.

The real fun, however, comes when you modify and adjust this old classic with new twists and turns that make for a brand new but familiar cocktail. Although there are endless possibilities, what follows will be a presentation of 4 spins on the classic Manhattan, while also recounting the original recipe of course. 

An Overview of the Manhattan 

Dating back to the late 1800s, 1880 to be exact, The Manhattan became an instant classic upon its creation. Properly named, this cocktail was invented in New York City using the oh-so-familiar American whiskey – Rye. 

Today, the recipe persists to be much the same, calling for rye or bourbon, sweet vermouth, bitters, and of course, a garnish of brandied cherry to top it all off. Over the years, however, the original recipe has been played with and questioned, resulting in several spins and imaginative alternatives that put up a fight.

From The Brooklyn which takes a dryer spin on the tasting notes and the Brandy Manhattan which aims to sweeten up the original, to the Black Manhattan which subscribes to the bitter spectrum and the Rob Roy which introduces Scotch rather than Rye, the spins on this instant classic are endless.

Nevertheless, the original recipe is timeless, hence it still being followed to this day. Regardless of how many variables change and new names are placed on it, there’s a reason The Manhattan persists to sit atop many a menu. 

The Classic Manhattan Recipe

Unlike other cocktails which are wide open for interpretation, The Manhattan has quite the dominant recipe cemented in time, rarely tampered with by bartenders or Convivialists.

One variable that does change from time to time is the type of whiskey used. Though rye is the most common and preferred choice, deriving from the original recipe, it’s not uncommon for some to use bourbon instead. Notably, if you ask for a Manhattan at any given bar, rye is the likely standard. 

If you plan on trying the recipe out for yourself, you may be wondering what rye to use. Luckily, I’ve created a list of the 11 Best Ryes Under $50! Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you may be tempted to try a spin on the classic. If so, continue reading! 

First, however, is the classic Manhattan recipe:


  • 2 ounces of rye whiskey 
  • 1 ounce of sweet vermouth 
  • 2 dashes of angostura bitters
  • 1 dash of orange bitters
  • 1 cherry topping 


Combine the whiskey, vermouth, and bitters to a mixing glass with ice and stir vigorously. Strain and pour into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with a cherry top. Sip and enjoy. 

Popular Spins on a Classic

As mentioned, over the years the original recipe has been played with, replacing one or more variables with a better (or worse…) alternative. The end result? A brand new Manhattan-inspired cocktail! 

Whether it’s a change in whiskey, a replacement of bitters and vermouth, or an addition of something completely new, the spins on the classic Manhattan are truly endless.

While I can’t share all of them with you, I’ve chosen four of my favorites to discuss.

Below are four (4) must-try spins on the classic Manhattan:

  • The Brooklyn 
  • The Black Manhattan
  • The Rob Roy
  • The Brandy Manhattan 
The Brooklyn 

Though different and less popular from its counterpart, the classic Manhattan, the Brooklyn remains to be as elegant a classic as any. Ideally calling for the less accessible Amer Pecon, however, can comprise angostura bitters as its replacement, The Brooklyn is a dry, bittersweet spin on its cousin. 


  • 2 ounces of rye whiskey
  • 1 ounce of dry vermouth
  • Quarter ounce of maraschino liqueur 
  • Quarter ounce of Amer Pecon (or 2 dashes of angostura bitters)
  • 1 lemon twist (or brandied cherry topping)


Combine the rye, dry vermouth, liqueur, and bitters to a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously. Strain and pour into your favorite cocktail glass and finish it with a lemon twist garnish. Sip and enjoy. 

The Black Manhattan

The Black Manhattan is a simple but distinct variation of the Manhattan classic. Created in San Francisco in 2005 by bartender Todd Smith, The Black Manhattan uses two types of bitters and replaces sweet vermouth with the more herbal Averna amaro. The end result? A bitter but welcomed spin on the classic. 


  • 2 ounces of rye whiskey
  • 1 ounce of Averna amaro 
  • 1 dash of angostura bitters 
  • 1 dash of orange bitters
  • 1 cherry garnish 


Combine the rye whiskey, amaro, and both bitters into a mixing glass full of ice and stir vigorously. Strain and pour into a chilled glass and top it with a brandied cherry garnish. Sip and enjoy.

The Rob Roy

While its name was inspired by a times operetta, the recipe itself was inspired by the classic Manhattan that was created a decade earlier. While the ratio of ingredients tends to differ depending on the bartender, its recipe remains the same. The difference between this and the classic Manhattan? It replaces rye whiskey with the stiffer Scotch whiskey. 


  • 2 ounces of Scotch
  • 1 ounce of sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes of angostura bitters
  • 1 cherry garnish


Add the scotch, vermouth, and bitters to a mixing glass with ice and stir until cold. Strain and pour into a cocktail glass of choice and garnish with a brandied cherry. Sip and enjoy.

The Brandy Manhattan 

A sophisticated spin on an old classic, the Brandy Manhattan is as it sounds; replacing rye whiskey with brandy. With its additions of sweet red vermouth, the result is a sweeter, citrus, fruity twist on the classic Manhattan. While the adjustment is simple, the taste is complex. Try for yourself! 


  • 2 ounces of brandy (or cognac) 
  • 1 ounce of sweet red vermouth
  • 2-3 dashes of angostura bitters
  • 1 lemon peel or luxardo cherry garnish


Combine both the brandy, vermouth, and bitters to a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir vigorously. Strain and pour into a coupe glass and enjoy. Oh, and don’t forget your garnish! 

Choosing the Best Spin on an Old Classic!

The variations on the classic Manhattan are endless, with the four recipes discussed above just scratching the surface of what’s possible. There’s no denying that the classic Manhattan recipe is a staple, however, who can argue the amusement of putting a twist on an old favorite?!

Whether you’re having a cocktail night in with friends or heading out on a date night so special, the Manhattan is a safe and sophisticated choice.

Just remember, if you’re feeling a little frisky, you can always put a spin on it.

Stay Gold!

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