Classic Cocktail Origins: The Manhattan

Simple, sophisticated, and delicious, the Manhattan is customarily made with whiskey, sweet vermouth, bitters and a Maraschino cherry garnish. The whiskey is normally a rye, but sometimes bourbon or blended whiskies are used. Manhattans are customarily served in a cocktail glass.

Like many traditional cocktails, there are several rumored origins for the Manhattan. Most popularly, the classic cocktail origins of this beverage happened at New York City’s Manhattan Club in the 1870s. According to the story, it was invented specially for a highly successful banquet hosted by Winston Churchill’s mother (Jennie Jerome, Lady Randolph Churchill). The inventor of the Manhattan in that story was one Dr. Iain Marshall. However, this story is almost assuredly untrue, since records place Lady Churchill in Europe and very pregnant at the date of the party. The Manhattan Club still touts this story in its official history.

Earlier classic cocktail origins for the Manhattan exist, however. A bartender is said to have crafted the cocktail at a bar on Broadway in the 1860s. According to a writer named William F. Mulhall, “The Manhattan cocktail was invented by a man named Black, who kept a place ten doors below Houston Street on Broadway in the [eighteen-] sixties—probably the most famous drink in the world in its time.”

Regardless of who actually invented the cocktail and when, it has been a classic beverage since the late 1800s. It was also the first cocktail known to include vermouth as a modifier for the primary ingredient, predating even the Martini.

There are several variations on this cocktail, including the Rob Roy (with scotch whiskey), Dry Manhattan (dry vs. sweet vermouth), Brandy Manhattan (brandy vs. whiskey), Metropolitan (a Brandy Manhattan that’s 3-to-1 brandy to vermouth), Perfect Manhattan (equal parts sweet and dry vermouth), Cuban Manhattan (a Perfect Manhattan with dark rum instead of whiskey), and a Tijuana Manhattan (Anejo tequila instead of whiskey).

Join us for a Manhattan at the Tin Lizzie Lounge! We make it with Carpano Antiqua Formula Vermouth and Angostora Bitters – The Lower Queen Anne Manhattan is made with Old Overholt Rye and The Upper Queen Anne Manhattan has Hudson Manhattan Rye.

Image source, labelled for reuse