Liquor Laboratory

10 Best Whiskeys For A Manhattan (2024 Updated)

Best Whiskeys For A Manhattan

Last Updated on March 13, 2024 by Lydia Martin

In the world of classic cocktails, no one will forget the all-time favorite, Manhattan. This delightful and classic cocktail is made with simple ingredients – whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters, and is best garnished with the maraschino cherry. 

If you want to take your drink to the next level, use the best whiskey for a Manhattan. Check out our list below!

Top 10 Best Whiskey for A Manhattan 

1. Pikesville Rye (Rittenhouse Rye) 

Pikesville Rye, Best Whiskey for A Manhattan

Made by Heaven Hill Distillery in Kentucky, this is one of the best high rye whiskeys for a Manhattan. With its mash bill of corn, malted barley, and rye, it boasts an excellent, spicy finish with hints of red cherries, honey, and adzuki beans. The flavor features citrus and cocoa in the mouth with hints of baking spices. 

You will also appreciate the tart and astringent notes with a quick taste of cinnamon, leather, and Japanese pickled veggies. Additionally, at 100 proof, it’s smooth to sip in Manhattan cocktails. 

2. Bulleit Rye Whiskey

Bulleit Rye Whiskey

This award-winning Bulleit Rye bottle is made from a mash of 95% rye and 5% malted barley, distilled twice, and aged at least four years in new American oak barrels. It has an unparalleled spice and fruit flavor profile with hints of pepper, clove, cherries, and vanilla on the nose, just like the Bulleit bourbon

The finish is smoky with hints of cinnamon, sweets, and baking spices. This whiskey is bottled at 90 proof (45% ABV).

3. Willett Family Estate Rye Whiskey

Willett Family Estate Rye

This small-batch bourbon rye whiskey features grassy and herbal goodness on the nose with mild sweetness. You can get a well-balanced flavor of mintiness with a twist of sweetness on the tongue and spiciness on the throat with this small-batch rye bourbon. 

This small-batch rye bourbon is one of the great rye whiskeys to drink straight and a good mix to make cocktails like Black Manhattan, among others. However, ready your budget as this bottle comes with a hefty price tag and is sometimes hard to find! 

4. Russels’ Reserve Rye Whiskey

Russels’ Reserve Rye

Russels’ Reserve is straight rye whiskey made with rye, corn, and malted barley. The flavor is full of oakiness with hints of caramel and baking spice aromas– bringing extra heat for a Manhattan. 

One sip of this masterpiece offers a burst of heat with hints of leather and vanilla, along with mild aged oak than lingers on the throat. Besides, one glass is an excellent way to round things up! 

Read: Recommended Rye Whiskey For Old-Fashioned

5. Legent Bourbon

Legent Bourbon

As one of the Top 100 Spirits of 2020 by Wine Enthusiast Magazine, this Kentucky bourbon is partially aged in wine and sherry casks. As a result, this bourbon has a caramel-rich aroma, close to dulce de leche, with a silky texture. 

The finish boosts dried fruit and spice. This Legent bourbon is an excellent option for experimenting with Manhattan cocktails.  

6. Law’s Whiskey House San Luis Valley Bonded Rye

Law’s Whiskey House San Luis Valley Bonded Rye

This American rye is a popular option that makes a great Manhattan cocktail– not just because it’s straight rye but due to its unique flavor profile. This whiskey boosts cooling notes of fennel and mint with hints of sea salt, brown sugar, and orange bitters on the palate.

Also, it has tasting notes of tobacco with a rich, buttery mouthfeel. You will surely love how the flavors crumble in your mouth down to your throat. 

Read: Must-Try Whiskeys For Highball

7. Stranahan’s Sherry Cask

Stranahan’s Sherry Cask

Thanks to this spirit’s depth flavors and aged in sherry barrels, like bourbon, you can achieve a dessert-like drinking experience. Its 40-year aging process creates unique and rich flavors of almonds, dark chocolate, cherries, raisins, honey, and walnut. 

The nose boasts over-ripe cherry and sweet apple with a buttery, sweet, and smoky finish. With the array of flavors, this makes a classic Manhattan cocktail. 

8. Kings County Straight Bourbon

Kings County Straight

Inspired by Scotch whiskey, this bourbon has a surprisingly good structure with a touch of sweet vermouth, perfect for cocktail recipes. Kings County Straight bourbon has tasting notes of vanilla, cherry, and cinnamon. 

Aged in new charred oak barrels, you will love its caramel-rich flavor with holiday spice plus deep flavors of grains, licorice, molasses, and black pepper spice. The smell, well-balanced flavors, and good saturation of Kings County bourbon make a perfect old-fashioned Manhattan cocktail. 

9. Willett Family Estate Cask Strength 4-Year 

Willett Family Estate Cask Strength 4-Year

This small-batch bourbon features grassy and herbal goodness on the nose with mild sweetness. You can get a well-balanced flavor of mintiness with a twist of sweetness on the tongue and spiciness on the throat with this small-batch rye bourbon. 

This small-batch rye is one of the great rye whiskies to drink straight and a good mix to make cocktails like Black Manhattan. However, ready your budget as this bottle comes with a hefty price tag and is sometimes hard to find! 

10. Old Forester Rye

Old Forester Rye

This bottle features a mash bill of rye, malted barley, and corn. It goes through an entirely natural fermentation process, creating a uniquely floral character with rye grain’s sharp and brisk spice.

The aroma boasts creamy vanilla and lemon custard with rich caramel and sugary notes. It has a dry finish that ignites anise, pine, and bright lemon zest. At 100 proof, this rye spice whiskey plays beautifully in cocktails. 

Related Posts: 

Tips for the Best Manhattan Cocktail 

Tips for the Best Manhattan Cocktail 

  • Have the right tools – a mixing glass, bar spoon, a strainer, and a jigger. Don’t forget your favorite cocktail or martini glass; a chilled coupe glass is recommended. But, you can use any glass you prefer. 
  • Have the best whisky choice. Rye whisky is good. But we enjoy using American whiskey like Kentucky bourbons, or any bourbon whiskey will do. So you can achieve a slightly sweeter Manhattan cocktail. Alternatively, you can use blended Scotch for a smoother finish. 
  • Don’t buy the wrong vermouth. Yes, you can use any vermouth you like, but we recommend the (red) sweet vermouth for a perfect Manhattan cocktail. For this drink to be perfect, you’ll need sweet and dry vermouth. 
  • Opt for angostura spirits. It adds spice and warmth to the drink without astounding other ingredients. But as an alternative, you can use orange bitters [1] for a sweeter result. 
  • Manhattans are best served on the rocks in an Old Fashioned glass, allowing the drink to be diluted further. It makes it a little bit boozy. 
  • If you prefer dryer cocktails, you can try the Dry Manhattan drink. Use dry vermouth and garnish it with lemon. 
  • Garnish how you like. Once you mix all the ingredients, pour the mixture into your glass. Then, don’t forget the garnish for an extra special appeal. Use lemon or cherry peel. 
  • Make it your own original recipe. Though you can find more recipes online, you can find your own ideal Manhattan. Don’t be afraid to experiment! 

Are Manhattans Better With Rye Whisky? 

Yes, Manhattans are better with rye whisky. However, it will purely be based on your preference. You can also use a bourbon whiskey paired with the right sweet vermouth if you want some extra sugary tasting notes for your Manhattan cocktail [2]. You can opt for a Kentucky straight bourbon or any bourbon spirit with high rye for a well-balanced flavor. 

But, if you want a more traditional flavor, rye whiskies will surely satisfy your mouth feel. You can get the spicy notes with mild sweet hints using the good sweet vermouth.  

The Best Manhattan Recipe 

Manhattan

Prep Time: 3 minutes 

Total Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • Ice cubes or spheres
  • 1 oz. of Carpano Antica Formula (you can use other sweet vermouths)
  • 1 maraschino cherry (for the garnish)
  • 2 oz. of Rye whisky (of your choice) 
  • 2 dashes of angostura bitters 

Instructions: 

Fill your pint glass with ice cubes. Add bitters, rye, and vermouth and stir well. Strain the mixture into your cocktail glass (or your preferred glass) and garnish with the cherry. Serve and enjoy! 

Serving: 1

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you use any whisky for a Manhattan?

You can use any whiskey for a Manhattan. But, traditionally, Manhattan is made with high rye whisky, which balances the spice from the grain and the candied taste of the vermouth. Alternatively, you can use the best bourbon – either Kentucky bourbon or Kentucky straight bourbon– on your shelf for a unique effect. 

What is the best but cheap whiskey for Manhattan? 

The best but cheap whiskey for a Manhattan is the Old Forester Rye, which costs around $20 to $25 per bottle. Its strong tasting notes of vanilla, high rye spice, dried fruit, and smooth finish make a savory and memorable Manhattan cocktail. 

What whiskey should you use in a Manhattan?

Traditionally, a Manhattan cocktail is made with rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and aromatic bitters. Rye whiskey’s spicier and robust flavor profile complements the sweetness of vermouth, creating a well-balanced cocktail.

However, personal preferences play a significant role, and bourbon is a popular and acceptable alternative for those who prefer its smoother and sweeter characteristics.

What is the best bourbon for a Manhattan?

Selecting the best bourbon for a Manhattan depends on individual taste preferences. Some bourbon choices that work well in a Manhattan include:

Buffalo Trace: Known for its balanced and versatile flavor profile.

Maker’s Mark: Offers a sweeter and milder bourbon option.

Woodford Reserve: Known for its rich and complex flavors.

Bulleit Bourbon: Has a high-rye mash bill, adding a hint of spiciness.

Ultimately, the best bourbon for a Manhattan is one that aligns with your taste preferences and enhances the overall cocktail experience.

What’s the best liquor to use for Manhattan?

The classic Manhattan recipe calls for whiskey as the primary spirit. While rye whiskey is traditional, bourbon is commonly used as a popular and flavorful alternative.

The key is to choose a whiskey with a flavor profile that complements the sweet vermouth and bitters, creating a harmonious and well-balanced cocktail.

Is a Manhattan better with bourbon or rye?

Whether a Manhattan is better with bourbon or rye is a matter of personal preference. Rye whiskey, with its spicier and drier profile, is the traditional choice and provides a classic Manhattan experience.

Bourbon, on the other hand, adds a sweeter and smoother dimension to the cocktail. Both variations are widely enjoyed, and the choice between bourbon and rye depends on individual taste preferences.

Can Jack Daniels be used in Manhattan?

While Jack Daniel’s is a Tennessee whiskey with its distinct flavor profile, some may choose to use it in a Manhattan.

However, purists may argue that a true Manhattan should be made with either rye or bourbon.

If using Jack Daniel’s, it’s essential to recognize that its flavor, characterized by a smooth and slightly sweet profile, may impart a different taste to the cocktail compared to traditional Manhattan recipes. Experimenting with different whiskeys allows you to tailor the Manhattan to your individual taste preferences.

Can you use Johnnie Walker in a Manhattan?

While Johnnie Walker is a popular Scotch whisky, it is not typically used in a classic Manhattan cocktail. Manhattans traditionally feature American whiskey, specifically rye whiskey or bourbon, combined with sweet vermouth and bitters.

Scotch whisky, including Johnnie Walker, has a different flavor profile compared to American whiskey, and using it in a Manhattan may alter the cocktail’s taste significantly.

However, some individuals may choose to experiment with different spirits to create unique variations of the Manhattan.

What is the best affordable whiskey for Manhattans?

Several affordable whiskey options are suitable for making Manhattans without sacrificing quality. Some options include:

Old Overholt Rye: A classic rye whiskey with a spicy and robust flavor profile, ideal for traditional Manhattans.

Buffalo Trace Bourbon: Offers a well-balanced and smooth bourbon option at an affordable price point, adding richness to Manhattans.

Evan Williams Bourbon: Known for its affordability and approachable flavor profile, making it a popular choice for mixing in cocktails like the Manhattan.

Rittenhouse Rye: A versatile rye whiskey with a higher proof, providing depth of flavor and complexity to Manhattans without breaking the bank.

These options offer quality and versatility for crafting delicious Manhattans while remaining budget-friendly.

What is the smoothest bourbon whiskey to drink straight?

The smoothest bourbon whiskey to drink straight can vary depending on individual taste preferences. However, some bourbons are known for their smooth and mellow flavor profiles, making them suitable for sipping neat. Examples of smooth bourbon whiskies include:

Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon: Known for its smooth and balanced taste, with notes of caramel, vanilla, and oak.

W.L. Weller Special Reserve: Offers a smooth and approachable bourbon with hints of sweetness and spice.

Maker’s Mark Bourbon: Features a smooth and mellow profile, characterized by its signature red-wax seal and wheated mash bill.

Ultimately, the smoothest bourbon whiskey for drinking straight is subjective and may vary based on personal taste preferences and individual experiences.

Is a Manhattan whiskey or bourbon?

A Manhattan is a cocktail traditionally made with whiskey, specifically rye whiskey or bourbon. The classic Manhattan recipe typically consists of whiskey, sweet vermouth, and aromatic bitters, garnished with a cherry.

While rye whiskey is the traditional choice, bourbon is commonly used as an alternative, offering a sweeter and smoother flavor profile.

How do you order a Manhattan at a bar?

When ordering a Manhattan at a bar, you can specify your preferences to the bartender. For example:

Start by stating the name of the cocktail: “I’d like a Manhattan, please.”

Specify your preferred type of whiskey: “With rye whiskey, please” or “With bourbon, please.”

Indicate whether you have any preferences for the type of vermouth or garnish: “Sweet vermouth, please” or “With a cherry garnish, please.”

If you have any specific instructions for how you’d like your Manhattan prepared, such as extra bitters or stirred instead of shaken, you can communicate them to the bartender at this time.

By providing clear instructions, you can ensure that the bartender prepares your Manhattan according to your preferences.

In Summary

All it takes to make the best Manhattan drink like a professional bartender in the Manhattan Club is choosing the excellent whisky to complete your recipe! Aside from the spirits, we’re used to in making cocktails, there are more options to choose from. 

With all the delicious whiskeys we mentioned above, you can now make your own Manhattan recipe. Just make sure to use what you really love in terms of taste, finish, and how well it compliments your cocktail from the first sip to the last. Cheers! 

References:

  1. What is the champagne to juice ratio in Mimosa?
  2. Cocktail Queries: What Makes for a Great Manhattan?
Lumint ad Side Bar
Flex Ad Side Bar