The Improved Manhattan Cocktail Recipe

12 Bottle Bar Headshot
12 Bottle Bar logo

This holiday season we’ve partnered with some of our favorite bloggers who will be showing you new and inspirational ways to bring the holidays home.

Entertaining this holiday season? We’ve partnered with David and Lesley Jacobs Solmonson of 12 Bottle Bar to bring you 12 new cocktails, one each week from now until New Years. Cheers!

There are few cocktails tastier than a Manhattan, except for a well-made Manhattan. While it’s an incredibly simple drink to conjure – just three ingredients in easy-to-remember proportions – you’re more likely to find a bad version than a quality one. Bourbon often replaces rye, too little or too much vermouth is added, and the bitters, well the bitters are forgotten all together. But the best thing about a Manhattan isn’t how easy it is to get right; it’s how easy it is to improve it even further.

About the Manhattan

The key to any well-made cocktail is balance, especially when only a few ingredients are involved. Where bourbon tends to be sweet in nature, rye offers distinct spice notes which both contrast and compliment the sweet vermouth. Aromatic bitters bring in another note of spice which helps bind and lift the drink. On its own, a proper rye Manhattan can be a bit dry, so our improved version includes a small dose of bitter-sweet orange liqueur, just enough to take off the edge. Truth be told, this isn’t our idea; it goes back to the earliest Manhattan recipes.

The simplicity of drinks like the Manhattan or its cousin, the Martini, is that they are great canvases for the ingredients contained within. Every whiskey will tell a different story, every vermouth sings a different song, and each will demand slightly different tweaks to the base recipe to achieve the proper balance. Have fun, experiment, but always try to produce a finished product that is bold and spicy with just enough sweetness. The Manhattan is proof positive that sometimes simple things can be the best things, especially when made correctly or, as in this case, improved with an added touch.

To highlight the simple elegance of our Manhattan, we choose the clean lines of Orb Aqua Ice Bucket and Camille Champagne Coupe.

The sturdy Cocktail Mixing Glass and Bar Spoon with Muddler turn stirring a drink into a visual and sonic theater. With the right tools, your drink will taste that much better.

Improved Manhattan Recipe


  • 1 teaspoon orange liqueur
  • 2 ounces rye whiskey
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • Dash aromatic bitters
  • Orange twist

Add the orange liqueur to a cocktail/martini glass. Place in the freezer.

Combine the whiskey, vermouth, and bitters in a mixing glass. Fill the mixing glass 2/3 full with ice. Stir vigorously for 30 seconds.

Remove the cocktail glass from the freezer. Swirl to coat to the interior of the glass with the orange liqueur, then shake out the excess.

Strain the contents of the mixing glass into the cocktails glass. Squeeze the orange twist over the drink to express the oils, then rub the outside over the rim of the glass.

Looking for another drink to try? See other cocktails we’re mixing up.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *