Cocktail Hour: The Manhattan

Illustration by Angela Oster.

David Wondrich, cocktail historian and Jerry Thomas expert, says the Manhattan “…Probably dates to the Manhattan Club, which was a social club for rich Democrats at Fifth Avenue and 15th Street in the 1870s.”  Accustomed to the maraschino cherry standards of a modern-day Manhattan, I was pleasantly surprised when I was recently served a variation from Wondrich’s book Imbibe! Remarkably smooth and even a touch sweet, this has been my favorite drink I’ve quaffed in a long time.

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The Manhattan
From Imbibe! By David Wondrich, 2007.
Based on a recipe by Jerry Thomas.

2 ounces rye whiskey
1 ounce Italian sweet vermouth
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash Absinthe
1 barspoon (or one teaspoon) Maraschino liquor

1.  Fill a tumbler with ice; add all ingredients and stir until the outside of the glass is cold.

2. Strain into a martini (cocktail) glass, and garnish with a cherry or a twist of lemon peel.

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Ready for another variation of this classic drink?  Try Madame X‘s Dirty Cherry Manhattan.  The second stop on the 19th C. Pub Crawl, Madam X serves up a Manhattan made with Basil Hayden’s 8-year-old bourbon, sour cherry syrup and sweet vermouth.  For a full list of Madame X’s cocktails, go here.

5 Responses to “Cocktail Hour: The Manhattan”


  • Now that I have made maraschino cherries, let me tell you.. they are spectacular… you must try them with your manhattan… I’ll share the recipe when its cherry season in july! The absinthe addition is brilliant… must be delish!

  • I don’t think Absinthe is at all apropriate in a Manhattan, Nor the Maraschino Liquor. Both of these seem to be simply there to up the ‘Cool’ factor of an already pretty nice drink.

  • But I think the maraschino + absinthe is more true to the original. It’s from a 19th c recipes. You’re not the first to freak out about this post. But I guarantee this drink is smooth and delicious.

  • deana – -I am really looking forward to experimenting with real maraschino cherries!

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