The classic Manhattan cocktail is an elegant and balanced drink, perfect to enjoy before dinner. Add Amarena cherries to make this cocktail even better!
Today I have for a classic cocktail. A favorite of both my mom and my mother-in-law and one we’ve been having fun testing here! 🙂
And you have the Amarena cherry to thank for this. Honestly and for true. We were out a dinner a few months ago while discussing which recipes I should work on and…whoa. My husband’s cocktail that evening was garnished with Amarena cherries.
They were a REVELATION. Immediately I knew I wanted to work on a cocktail using those cherries and I thought the best place to start was with a classic Manhattan.
Classic Manhattan Cocktail
The Manhattan was invented sometime in the 1870s-1880s in the Manhattan Club…in Manhattan. Hence the name. It have been beloved ever since and for good reason. Though there are a number of variations (bourbon vs rye, sweet vermouth vs dry, and so on), unlike the martini, the Manhattan sticks close to its roots.
And what roots they are! The Manhattan is simple, elegant, sippable, and makes a wonderful aperitif. I would generally consider the Manhattan to be too strong for dinner and too much for after dinner. Start your evening with a classic Manhattan cocktail and you won’t be sorry!
How do you make a classic Manhattan cocktail?
To make a classic Manhattan, add all the ingredients but the cherries to a cocktail shaker. Shake with ice and then pour into a glass. Serve garnished with Amarena cherries.
What is the best ratio of sweet vermouth to whiskey?
We tried a number of ratios, from the commonly used 2 to 1 (2 oz bourbon + 1 oz vermouth) down to as little as 8 to 1 (2 oz bourbon + 1/4 oz vermouth) while testing the cocktail. And the ratio which gave a very drinkable, perfectly balanced cocktail was 4 to 1 (2 oz bourbon + 1/2 oz vermouth).
So, use a 4 to 1 ratio of bourbon to sweet vermouth.
Why Amarena cherries?
Try them and and you’ll know!
Amarena cherries are an Italian black cherry produced in Emilia-Romagna. They are intensely flavored, balanced, both sweet and a little bitter, and very high quality. There is really no comparison between Amarena cherries and the common Maraschino cherries found in US supermarkets.
If you must use Maraschino cherries, buy the Luxardo brand. They are proper Maraschino cherries and excellent in cocktails. (Noting that Luxardo is also Italian brand. Basically, use Italian cherries!)
Where can I find Amarena cherries?
You may be able to find them at upscale supermarkets, Italian import stores, or order them online. I like the Fabbri brand of Amarena cherries, but there are a number of other quality brands out there.
Shaken or Stirred?
There is a big debate about that! There are those who come down on shaken and others who strongly prefer stirred. I like my drink really cold and don’t mind a little dilution from the shaking, so I shake.
What is the best sweet vermouth in a Manhattan?
The two most commonly available sweet vermouths in the US are Gallo and Martini and Rossi. These are brands I have had and used. If they are all you can find, by all means make your Manhattan with them.
However, if you want to step up your Manhattan and use a vermouth worthy of the fancy Italian cherries you just bought, it may be time to try out some other brands of vermouth.
Here are a few brands to consider:
This vermouth is considered by many to be THE vermouth. Antica will make a truly classic Manhattan. It’s a little more bitter and less sweet than some vermouths out there but very balanced and smooth. (Note: This is the one I bought. I’ve found it at a few different liquor stores in different states even so I would say it is fairly widely available.)
Noilly Prat Rouge
This is a French vermouth with a fair amount of spice and citrus flavors. If you are looking to amp up the orangey flavors of the Manhattan, this a great choice!
Cocchi Vermouth di Torino
Cocchi has an intense, rich flavor that is a little sweeter than the others I’ve mentioned. This is a vermouth you can use in any number of vermouth based cocktails, including the Manhattan.
Looking for a quality sweet vermouth on a budget? This vermouth is more delicate, but still has plenty of spice along with vanilla flavors.
There are many other wonderful vermouths out there! And many new brands being developed as people are becoming more interested in craft cocktails. Just note that vermouth is a wine! For best quality keep your vermouth in the refrigerator and use it within a few months.
If you try my recipe for a Classic Manhattan Cocktail, I would love to hear from you in the comments with your experience and rating! And I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.
– Happy Drinking, Annemarie
Classic Manhattan Cocktail with Amarena Cherries
- 2 oz bourbon
- 1/2 oz sweet vermouth
- 1 drop bitters
- 1/2 tsp syrup from the jar of cherries
- 1-3 Amarena cherries
- Add bourbon, vermouth, bitters, and syrup to a shaker with ice.
- Shake until chilled.
- Pour cocktail into a glass and garnish with cherries.