We love classic cocktails. Give us an old fashioned, negroni, sidecar, or margarita any day and we’re sorted. It’s just got to be made simply and well, then we’re all in. Among all the entrants in the Cocktail Hall of Fame, one of our favorite old school mixed drinks is the Manhattan. Consisting of whiskey (usually rye), sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters, this drink is as simple as it is delicious. Which is to say, very.
It’s so easy to make, in fact, that you might want whip one up at home tonight. But choosing the right whiskey can be downright daunting with al the options on shelves. That’s why we asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us their go-to whiskeys for mixing into a Manhattan.
Hudson Baby Bourbon
Alli Torres, bartender at Refinery Rooftop in New York City
I love Hudson Baby Bourbon. This is mainly because I’m from New York, so you have to represent the home team. For 100% corn, it’s wildly smooth with a touch of caramel and leather. Must be that New York water that makes it delicious.
Michter’s Small Batch Bourbon
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Oscar Amaya, bar manager and head mixologist at The Rusty Pelican in Miami
I like Michter’s Small Batch bourbon. This one is one of my favorite bourbons, and it goes well with our Italian Sweet vermouth. It’s got rich caramel flavored with balanced notes of vanilla, stone fruit notes, and smoky depth with an oaky finish.
Michter’s is truly one of a kind.
Maker’s Mark Bourbon
Lauren Mathews, lead bartender at Urbana in Washington, DC
For Manhattans, I’ve been really enjoying Maker’s Mark. It’s such a nice addition to full-flavored vermouth. It’s also consistently great every time and works well with the Angostura bitters.
Woodford Reserve Bourbon
Travis Sanders, Bartender at Pennyroyal Bar in Seattle
Woodford Reserve bourbon is a great straightforward whiskey and shines with the right vermouth. When a cocktail is just three ingredients, start with a great whiskey then find a good vermouth and you’ll inevitably end up with a great Manhattan.
Willet Family Estate Rye
Hilary Chadwick, director of food & beverage at Viviane in Beverly Hills, California
Like the old fashioned, a Manhattan should be kept simple with a great rye whiskey. I love anything from the Willet Family Estate. It’s single-barrel, high-proof rye that gives a high level of complexity without straying from the great rye flavor you look for in a Manhattan.
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Chris Heinrich, head bartender at Tre Rivali in Milwaukee
Any time anyone requests a Manhattan without providing a preference of spirit, I always volunteer Rittenhouse Rye. It’s spicy, it’s delicious, and it’s bottled-in-bond. It’s also very affordable. I highly recommend it, especially as your daily go-to rye whiskey.
Michter’s Straight Rye
Stephen George, beverage director at 20|Twenty Grill in Carlsbad, California
I prefer rye over bourbon in my Manhattan. The spicy character of Michter’s Straight Rye whiskey plays nicely with sweet vermouth (I like Carpano Antica) and bitters (classically Angostura). If you wanted to go the bourbon route, I would suggest a “high rye” bourbon, like Woodford Reserve or Four Roses. The higher percentage of rye will still add some spice character to the cocktail.
You could also sub in Yzaguirre Rojo, a Spanish Sweet Vermouth (full of warm spices like cinnamon) for some extra depth of flavor.
High West Double Rye
Melissa Carroll, bar manager at Fisk & Co. in Chicago
High West Double Rye Whiskey — with its nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon notes — really is the best mixer to go into a Manhattan. Pair it with Antica Torino ‘Vermouth di Torino’ Rosso, which has a beautiful taste of vanilla and citrus that the Manhattan really needs and is often found in bourbon.
I prefer this blend because you get the best of spice and sweet, without it being cloying in either direction.
Wild Turkey Rye 101
Jessica Stewart, bar manager Fort Oak in San Diego
Rye whiskey is what I like to use for a Manhattan. Wild Turkey Rye 101 is the perfect partner because the higher proof can hold up to the sweet vermouth and it has a nice, long finish.
Sarah LM Mengoni, bartender at Double Take in Los Angeles
If I’m making a Manhattan, I’m probably grabbing a bottle of Sazarac Rye. It’s strong black pepper and spicy character makes it a nice match for sweet vermouth.