Last Updated on December 29, 2022 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 Whiskeys for A Manhattan
1. Pikesville Rye (Rittenhouse Rye)
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
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
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 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!
5. 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
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.
7. 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
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
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
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.
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  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 . 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
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
- 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
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!
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.
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!
Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds! Contact at [email protected] or learn more about us here.