There’s vermouth in my Manhattan!

The Manhattan has long been one of my favorite cocktails. It’s simple (three ingredients), uses whiskey as the base, and is named after one of my favorite places. What’s not to love?

The Manhattan
Despite my love of the cocktail, I’ve never actually made one before. Shocking I know. Perhaps more embarrassing than shocking, the reason for my cocktail drought is that I’ve never owned a proper shaker or purchased vermouth before.

(Please don’t stop reading. Perhaps I shouldn’t admit to such basic holes in my bartending abilities before writing an article about drinking.)

Fear not, readers. Despite my lack of experience in the concoction stage, I’ve had plenty of experience with consumption. To me the Manhattan means whiskey with sweet vermouth and bitters. I thought subtle changes came from the proportions and the type of brown spirit selected (I’m partial to rye).

While doing some light reading in The Williams-Sonoma Bar Guide, I discovered a variation that I was previously unaware of, the Dry Manhattan. Everything is the same except dry vermouth is used in place of sweet vermouth. You may be more familiar with dry vermouth for its role in the classic Martini.

So what’s the difference? To the bar!

The bar tools

My Manhattan is simple:

  • 3 parts rye (I used Bulleit for this study)
  • 1 part sweet vermouth (dry if you’re making the dry variation)
  • 3 dashes Angustora bitters

Add all ingredients to a shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into your glass preference. Garnish is optional but I like a cherry.

1 part vermouth makes a big difference. To my palette, the dry Manhattan was more subdued but there was more separation of the flavors. The original Manhattan has a bolder flavor but I find it more balanced and it blends nicely into its own unique flavor rather than tasting like rye and vermouth. You can see in the picture below that is a distinct visual difference too. The dry variation (on the left) looks more like watered down rye while the standard (on the right) has a deeper, reddish color.

dry vs. standard manhattans

I tend to drink Manhattans more in the winter but the dry version might make a nice warm weather variation. Overall it was interesting but I’m sticking with the original. What’s your preference? Have any Manhattan tips? Let me know in the comments or on twitter.