In Search of the Perfect Manhattan

“Nothing is perfect.” How often did we hear that as kids – or even now as adults? Well, in the cocktail world, perfect does exist.

If you sit down at a bar with a knowledgeable bartender and ask for your drink perfect, you’ll get your base drink order with a 50/50 split of sweet and dry vermouth. Of course, that presupposes you are ordering a drink with vermouth in it.

For example, a perfect Manhattan is Whiskey, sweet and dry vermouth, and bitters.

Photo: Flickr / BuvetteNow, there are classic cocktails and then there are classic cocktails - drinks by which the craft is defined. The Martini. The Daiquiri. And certainly, the Manhattan.

So, why mess with a classic? Well, perhaps, because it is a classic, and it can stand up to tinkering.

But also because drink recipes are not immutable – and a little twist often times creates something better, perhaps more interesting, and certainly more personal than the original.

Play with the classic
For some people, the Manhattan is ideal as it is, no tinkering needed. We 12 Bottle Bar folks don’t disagree. But for others, including us when the mood strikes, the sweet vermouth in a Manhattan is just that – too sweet.

Dry vermouth adds an herbal note, making the drink more savory. For others, the combination of a brown spirit like Whiskey coupled with the viscosity of sweet vermouth, and the punch of the bitters makes for a decidedly powerful drink. Dry vermouth tames that intensity, softening the edges of what is a quintessentially “big” drink.

So, perfect. A simple description that transforms a drink. Those lacking the vocabulary may scoff at your choice of words, but know that, in the hands of the right bartender, you are speaking a universal language. And that is indeed a perfect way to drink.

Recipe for a Perfect Manhattan, 12 Bottle Bar Style
→ 2 oz (60 ml) Rye Whiskey
→ 1/2 oz (15 ml) sweet vermouth
→ 1/2 oz (15 ml) dry vermouth
→ 1 dash aromatic bitters
→ Splash of Orange Liqueur
→ Orange peel for garnish

Add Orange Liqueur to a coupe glass and place in the freezer. Add all other ingredients to a mixing glass and place in the freezer. Let everything chill for 10+ minutes.

Remove the mixing glass from the freezer, add large ice and stir vigorous for approximately 30 seconds.

Remove coupe glass from the freezer. Twirl to coat inside of the glass with orange Liqueur. Shake out excess.

Strain mixing glass contents into coupe. Squeeze large twist of orange peel over the glass, releasing the oils. Run peel over the rim of the glass, then toss into drink.

Perfect Manhattan Cocktail Recipe

By Lesley


About the author: Lesley Jacobs Solmonson and David Solmonson are authors of the 12 Bottle Bar book on cocktails. Combined with our Cocktail Unveil Tasting Box they're everything you need to start enjoying and mixing cocktails like a pro.

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