Manhattan Cocktail

Few drinks have been able to make the tortuous journey through American Prohibition and into the modern era unscathed by alterations, shortcuts, gimmicks, and obscurity. The Manhattan, retains a modicum of popularity, and is even made pretty much the same way it was back in the late 1800’s when it first came onto the scene. Most notably, it is one of the few cocktails which you can still expect to be made with bitters.


2 oz American whiskey (rye or bourbon) 3/4 oz sweet vermouth 1 dash Angostura bitters


Stir with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.


Robert Hess 17 Aug 2007
8:50 am

As you’ll come to see through future episodes of The Cocktail Spirit, bitters often play an important role in making cocktails. I have dozens of bottles of bitters at home, and unlike most of you, go through them quite regularly! :->

Greg 30 Nov 2007
9:53 pm

Great episode!
Love the part about the cherries.
Luxardo is exporting Marasca cherries into the U.S. as of a few months ago. My prefered treatment is to soak them in Maraschino liqueur. They are very distinctive.

Robert Hess 1 Dec 2007
5:59 am

Greg, glad you liked it and thanks for the tip about Luxardo, I’ll check with them to see if they are distributing in my area.


Ted 14 Dec 2007
1:51 pm

Great episode, Robert!  I was wondering if you were also aware of “The Boothby Cocktail” named and created by William “Cocktail” Boothby in San Francisco in 1908?  I’m told it’s more or less a Manhattan (minus the twist of orange) with a Champagne float…

Jay 7 Jan 2008
4:51 pm

Well done episode, especially the coverage of the bitters.  The Manhattan is one of my favorite winter cocktails but Iv’e been omitting the bitters, the next one will include them!  Iv’e been using the Italian amarena cherries and reducing the amount of sweet vermounth with excellent results.

Dinah 20 Jan 2008
5:47 pm

Hi Ted & Robert,

I’ve just finished putting up a complete copy of the 1907/1908 edition of William “Cocktail” Boothby’s The World’s Drinks & How To Mix Them here:

I have tagged all the recipe names so just search by name in my Flickr pictures and you should find what you’re after.

Nothing labeled “Boothby Cocktail” in this edition, so all I’ve got to go on is that San Francisco Chronicle article about the historical society presentation on it. Time for more Boothby scholarship, I say! Sic Wondrich on it, right? ;)

- Dinah

Robert Hess 21 Jan 2008
5:56 am

Thanks Dinah… I’ll check with John Burton about the Boothby cocktail and see if I can get him to post some details here.


blair frodelius 6 Mar 2008
5:11 pm


Watched this, went downstairs and followed your recipe exactly with Rittenhouse Bonded.  Wow!  It is a killer.  I’m curious to know whether the various bitters you have available change the character much.  Seems like Fee Peach Bitters would be awesome with Maker’s Mark.



Robert Hess 7 Mar 2008
9:06 am

Using different bitters will add subtle differences to the final drink. I’ve never tried it with Peach bitters however, might be interesting.

Robert Hess 12 Mar 2008
11:56 am

Re: Angostura Orange Bitters

I just heard back from Angostura USA, they said that their shipment is “on the water”, with expectations to reach the warehouse by the end of this month. He expects country wide distribution in April and May.


Dinah Sanders 12 Mar 2008
7:00 pm


I believe this calls for a drink, eh? ;)

Roy 21 Mar 2008
3:16 pm

The links to the video have been lost.

Robert Hess 21 Mar 2008
5:17 pm

Do you mean the “download” link? Works fine for me…

blair frodelius 31 Mar 2008
4:25 pm

There ain’t no way I’d pay $50 for Macaroni & Cheese!  An original Trader Vic Mai Tai, yes!  But, mac & cheese, never!

Matt 10 May 2008
1:04 pm

I don’t really have any other way of contacting you (I can’t find an e-mail address for you anywhere and is down). I have a question that maybe you can help me with. I bought a bottle of Fee’s Lemon bitters the other day from Kegworks and the shaker cap was stuck to the screw on cap. I pried it out of there with a knife, but now the shaker cap won’t attach to the bottle anymore. I don’t really know how I can attach it on there (I really don’t want to glue it). I could always transfer it to another bottle, but I don’t have one.

Any suggestions? Thanks.

Robert Hess 10 May 2008
4:29 pm

Matt… a quick fix, would be to use a thin “sip straw” (which hopefully you have on hand). Simply dip the straw into the bottle of bitters, then cover the open/top end with your finger, and pull the straw out. This will extract some of the bitters as well. Then just hold this over your mixing glass or cocktail shaker and release your finger to release the bitters.

A better option, but one which will take some legwork, is to find a herbal/health store which sells empty “eye dropper” type of bottles, and then simply fill it with the bitters and use it to add bitters to your drinks.

As seeon on the “Traveling Mixologist” episode, I use such eye-dropper bottles to keep bitters with me when I think I might be out on the town and need some…


Joel 12 May 2008
2:47 pm


New to the show. I’m enjoying it very much.  You do a great job exposing the details that turn a good drink into a great one.  Your comment about the bitters was spot-on.  The Manhattan is one of my favorites, and it’s consequently one of my “test drinks” at a new place or with a new bartender to gauge the talent behind the bar.  I can always immediately tell if the bartender left out the bitters, and this tends to be the ingredient that determines whether the drink passes or fails the test for my palate, more-so than the choice of spirit.

As a fairly young boy (around 15 or so) I was introduced to mixing some classic cocktails by an old friend of my grandmothers, who recently passed away at the ripe old age of 92.  His recipe for happiness and long life included a good cocktail, scotch, or whiskey, and the occasional puff of a fine cigar.  At the time he taught me how to make some of these classics, (I was just barely sipping them to taste them, and not actually drinking them at my young age!) I didn’t care for them, but now, some 20 years later, I’m a big fan of these drinks.

This brings me to my question about a certain detail you didn’t cover in your making of the Manhattan:  He always insisted on chilling the glass first with ice before pouring.  I always still do this today, out of tradition, even though I don’t know why, and I’ve certainly had many Manhattans served both ways. 

Since you are such a detail-oriented student and teacher of cocktails, I was wondering what your thoughts on the matter are.


Robert Hess 12 May 2008
3:46 pm

Joel, a great Manhattan really is a thing of beauty, and one which we shockingly find so few bartenders that really understand. They usually just have “the” recipe which they’ve been told to use, without really understanding any of the ingredients that go into it, or the roles they (or the methods used) play. Sad…

As for chilled glassware…

My freezer contains just ice and cocktail glasses. Periodically the odd bit of frozen food might make an appearance, but since I never used processed frozen foods, and almost always cook with fresh vegetables, my glassware usually is the sole occupant. Which makes using properly chilled glasses ever-so-easy.

I SHOULD however spend some time talking about that in a future episode, as well as show using ice&water; to nicely chill glasses when pulled from the shelves. There are a couple episodes coming up where you’ll see me chilling down a glass, but I don’t think I really talk about it much.


Robert Hess 22 May 2008
3:44 pm

Re: Angostura Orange Bitters…

Just heard that the folks at will be getting their first shipment of Angostura orange bitters in a couple of days. They are apparently getting the FIRST shipment in all the US… hope they ordered lots and lots of it!


Stefan 26 May 2008
2:57 am


I’m a recently-turned-21 young man trying to educate himself about cocktails, and I’ve found your site and these videos to be an absolutely wonderful way to start learning. Somewhat regrettably, however, being a college student in a rather small college town, none of the bars in my area truly deliver in the cocktail arena, meaning I really am mostly stuck to teaching myself. While this has its advantages (such as picking my own ingredients and making things the way I want them every time), it also means that I’m woefully uneducated about proper ordering protocol and what brands a decently stocked bar will carry.

To relate this to the Manhattan of this video, I’m going to be going on a trip to Vegas this summer, and am unsure what rye whiskey to ask for in my Manhattans in bars out there. What are they likely to have out there, or at least something that’s not so far out of the ballpark as to seem bizarre (the only rye available through my local liquor stores is Old Overholt, and while I like that, I don’t really know if it’s common)? Also, I find that I more often than not I prefer a Manhattan on the rocks over putting them in a cocktail glass (mostly because of mood and, I admit, I like the bulk of the glass in my hand as opposed to a cocktail glass. I know. I’m a philistine. I’ll work myself up to it in good time, I swear). Is this a faux pas in a bar? Finally, while I figure that a Manhattan is a fairly safe bet at any reasonably decent bar, do I run the risk of not getting any bitters in my drink? Do I need to specify? Thanks for any help you can give.


Robert Hess 26 May 2008
9:12 am


While the Manhattan was originally made with rye whiskey, these days it can be VERY hard to find a proper rye stocked in most bars (although it is getting easier). Often, when asked about their ryes, most bartenders will point to their Canadian whiskies, incorrectly thinking that those are true ryes.

Old Overholt is perhaps the most common rye today, and pretty good for the bargin price.

If you want to call your whiskey, and want it to be a rye (if possible) to boot, then the best way to do this would to order your Manhattan, and then ask the bartender what brands of American rye they have. Anything they they have will be pretty good, perhaps the only one I might shy from would be the Jim Beam rye. Sazerac, Old Overholt, Rittenhouse, Pikesville, are some of the brands you might see around, with some “upscale” bars carrying Pappy Van Winkle, and some other expensive brands.

For Vegas, I personally recommend stopping in at the bar at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant. It’s a tad small and personal, and while the bartenders aren’t going to blow you away, they are very friendly, and love to chat about cocktails. Let them know I sent you. As I recall, they don’t have any rye however. But they do have Maker’s Mark, which is my default whiskey for a Manhattan.

And don’t worry about ordering it on the rocks, there isn’t anything wrong with that. I’ve got other friends who prefer theirs that way as well (are you listening gary?)

And as for bitters… I find that about 10% of the general bars don’t include bitters. I try to watch while it is being made, and if I don’t see them adding any bitters, I ask if they could add a dash. Even if you can’t get to that point until after the drink is poured, just have them put a couple dashes straight into the drink and then stir it up, easier if you are doing it on the rocks.


Dinah Sanders (MetaGrrrl) 26 May 2008
11:19 am

If you add complexity through a spicier vermouth like Punt e Mes, you can make up for some of the shortcomings of whiskey like Jim Beam. Not likely to apply at the bar - any place with Punt e Mes will have better whiskey choices too, but handy if you want to mix something up while traveling. (See my The United Cocktail )

As with Robert, I find traveling with my own orange bitters is a good plan and one drop can save many a drink delivered to a table. At the very least, a dash in a glass of water can help settle your stomach and certainly makes mediocre tap water taste better.

Stefan 26 May 2008
3:12 pm


Thanks for the tips. I’ll definitely check into the Eiffel Tower’s bar. If I can’t get rye whiskey, maybe I’ll just switch to a perfect Manhattan to tone down the sweetness of the drink- just might be a good compromise.

And Dinah, carrying orange bitters doesn’t seem like a bad idea at all- in addition to the points you brought up, it’s probably easier than trying to get a martini with it anyway.

Thanks a lot!

Rob 2 Jan 2009
7:18 pm

I was watching Art of the Drinks podcast earlier today and i came a cross and they showed how they made their Manhattan.  They were shaking them, I know from your podcast that you stir yours. other than the color and transparency in the cocktail and adding more water to the drink. Which method is better used, or would that be something a customer would need to specify?

Robert Hess 2 Jan 2009
7:46 pm

Oh, don’t you DARE get me started on “Art of the Drink”, I was embarassed to watch their videos with Charlotte Voisey, and take somebody as talented as she is and make her appear to be yet another “bimbo of the week”... dang… I TOLD you not to get me started.

If you shake a Manhattan, you end up with a frothy head, and a visibly disgusting drink. There is a different texture to the drink as well. It just should not be done.

Today, the vast majority of bartenders shake everything. Frankly, shaking a drink gets it cold a lot quicker than stirring it, although the dilution is almost identical either way, and from a geeky tecnical standpoint, you should be able to get a drink “colder” by stirring instead of shaking.

But “speed” is the main reason I feel that most bartenders have adopted shaking instead of stirring, or more importantly, knowing which drinks are better stirred than shaken.

It’s sort of like going into a restaurant and having your food cooked by microwave. It heats your food a LOT quicker, but at a cost in many cases.

A bartender who realizes a Manhatten should be stirred, is a bartender who deserves a big tip!

Rob 3 Jan 2009
6:30 pm

I apologize for making you go on a rant. I know i read this some where or maybe watched it on a podcast, but is there a sort of standard on when you should shake it and when you should not? My understanding, and correct me if I am wrong on this, is when you are using juices or ingredients that are opaque, its ok to shake it.  When all the ingredients are transparent like in the Manhattan you should stir it so it keeps that transparency. Is this right?

Robert Hess 3 Jan 2009
7:09 pm

Sounds like you’ve been paying attention! :->

Yes, the basic rule regarding when to shake and when to stir, is that if your ingredients are clear, you should always stir, if you have anything cloudy, then you can go ahead and shake.

In my mind, it is never wrong to stir a cocktail, but it can sometimes be wrong to shake it.


Appletosh 11 Jan 2009
10:17 am

My wife and I had our last date night out for a while (baby’s due at the end of the month). We had a fantastic meal at Marcello’s in Lafayette. I also had my first Sazerac, the first American cocktail and the official cocktail of Alcoholic Disneyland (better know as New Orleans, La.). A very nice drink indeed. If you haven’t tried one yet I highly recommend it. If you decide to have a second one you may want to have a designated driver handy ‘cause it’s mostly rye whiskey.  Incidentally, the J Pinot Gris I chased it with was quite tasty also.  I’m going to bed now.

Scott S 9 Apr 2009
6:08 pm

One thing I enjoy is pouring just a slight amount of the cherry juice into the cocktail before the stirring.  It is almost unnoticeable but it adds just a little. . . something.

Federico Cuco 25 Aug 2009
7:11 am

Thanks again Professor.

Lawrence Spies 25 Aug 2009
7:14 pm

Great Drink and video! I was wondering the name and where you got the mixer with the built in strainer? That is nice!

@Scott S

I sometimes put a drop or two of cherry bitters…

Robert Hess 26 Aug 2009
12:16 pm


“...was wondering the name…” I assume you mean “wondering where the name came from”? It likely got it’s name from the “Manhattan Club” in… well… Manhattan New York. There were a variety of clubs serving cocktails, some of which took off, some didn’t. The whiskey, plus sweet vermouth, plus bitters, was apparently a drink that popped up in a few of these different clubs and was then referred to as being “name of club” cocktail. For whatever reason, it was the Manhattan Club’s moniker which stuck (or at least that’s the story I’ve heard).

As for the mixer… that is unfortunately an antique which I got on eBay. I absolutely love these oversized mixing glasses with integrated strainer like this. Most of the “cocktail pitchers” you get these days are just formed glass, sometimes with a lip, but rarely with anything t hold the ice back. I wish somebody would take a look at coming out with things like this again.


Lawrence Spies 26 Aug 2009
1:01 pm

Oops! Sorry my bad! I meant the name of the mixer/cocktail pitcher…lol Thanks for info on the Manhattan! I agree some of the “oldies” are still “goodies” its a shame these old items are not around anymore and wish, like you,  someone would make some of the old classic glassware, shakers, mixers. etc…

Speaking of which, I found some 4 1/2oz and 5 1/2oz Champagne Coupe style stemware on the Anchor Hocking website, great looking stuff! better looking than the boring “v” and just the right size too…

Thanks again!

ozarkbeatnik 19 Jan 2010
7:23 am


First of all, thank you.  You have revolutionized the way I look at alcohol in general.  I really appreciate the pragmatic and classic, historical approach you have used to capture the essence of the cocktail.  I also received a copy of Jerry Thomas book for Christmas which is quite interesting, and look forward to reading yours.

I was in need of some orange bitters to round out my home bar.  Bitters have become hard to find in my area as of late, so I ordered a 3 pack of orange bitters from kegworks, and I am very pleased with all of them.  In fact, I really enjoy the subtle differences each (Fee Bro’s, Regan’s, and Angostora) bring to the same drink.  I don’t foresee myself flying through these bottles as fast as some, so my question is, can bitters go bad? 

Thank you again,

Robert Hess 19 Jan 2010
8:38 am

Beatnik… well I think we just need to find you some more recipes which use orange bitters :-> Here is a link to the recipes on my DrinkBoy website:

As for going bad… nope. Bitters should do quite well on your shelf for a long time. As illustrated my the many dusty bottles of Angostura that some bars seem to have. The only bitters I’d be cautious of would be the Blood Orange Bitters by Stirrings, they are non-alcoholic, and so they don’t have that to act as a preservative. I’d recommend keeping them in the fridge if you don’t use them regularly.

Will Pett 21 Feb 2010
9:06 am


I really appreicate your review of different kinds of bitters here, as bitters are such a misunderstood product.  After experimenting and reading around, I thought I might put in a request for a similar episode featuring the also highly misunderstood vermouth!  Sweet, dry, bianco, rosso, ambre, M&R, Cinzano, Carpano, Vya.  So much variety with so few informative resources describing their relative merits and distinctions.  My vote for the next episode of the Cocktail Spirit would be one all about vermouth.


Matt Joy 26 Apr 2010
10:22 pm

I most certainly agree with Will about an episode on vermouth. I was just recently in Bevmo and discovered there were brands other than M&R.  I wanted to buy one of each, but eventually showed restraint.  A little education and direction there would be wonderful.  Also on this show, you pull out a bunch of bitters and say you like them, but then say “enough about bitters…”    I want to hear more on bitters!  LOL.  I was perusing kegworks and and saw all the bitters by fee brothers and am very curious, but read some reviews elsewhere that said the fee brothers bitters were more syrupy or flavorings than true bitters.  The orange trio of Fee Bros, angostura and Regans will be what I buy first, but I would like to know which bitter brands work best in which cocktails and if there are any you use interchangeably or if you have one brand of bitters in mind for each drink you make with no exceptions.  Do you like the Stirrings blood orange bitters? Are all the Fee brothers bitters worth investing into?

Matt Joy 26 Apr 2010
10:29 pm

I have come to love the Manhattan! I definitely made it poorly a few times, but now it is quite possibly my favorite drink and one I can make consistently well.  The version I like the most, personally, borrows from the old fashion a bit.  I keep your ratios here, but add .25 oz cherry juice to the liquids being stirred. I prefer to add my bitters to a chilled glass before straining and not stir or shake them. I also add an orange twist making one full pull from around the orange making sure to get as much express oils in the glass as I can. I use an oversize glass for this and enjoy the orange overtones and slight sweetness mixed with the strength of the whiskey, and I usually go heavy on the bitters seeing as I enjoy them so much.  I use angostura with makers mark and peychauds with rye. Two distinctly different drinks, I think, but both everything I love about the Manhattan :)

Adam Coronado 26 May 2010
8:14 pm

Yeah, I finally got some Angostura. I think a Manhattan is better with Peychaud’s, actually. Does this make it a different drink?

Adam Coronado 5 Sep 2010
12:11 pm

Hi Robert,

I have question about the cherries you make on your own. Do you really just buy the cherries and soak them in alcohol? Or is there a pickling procedure involved (to preserve their freshness)? Thanks.

blair frodelius 5 Sep 2010
12:20 pm


When I’ve made my own homemade cocktail cherries, I buy fresh cherries at the market, pit them, and soak them in a jar filled with Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur for about a month.  They last for months if you keep them refrigerated.  You might also try dong them same with Maraska Liqueur or even try Cherry Heering for a more nutty cherry flavour.


Blair Frodelius

Robert Hess 7 Sep 2010
8:43 am

Adam, The cherries I end up using in this episode are dried cherries, which I then simply soak in brandy. They are never really “fresh” from that standpoint. Now if I am using fresh cherries, I typically will simply pit them, blanch them, and then soak them in alcohol of some sort. The alcohol itself will be the “pickling” agent at this point. They will soften up over time, but I’ve sampled cherries which I forgot at the back of my fridge for a year or so, and they were still quite nice.

Luke 9 Sep 2010
9:27 pm

Robert, I wanted to know what you thought of using Canadian Whiskey, especially Canadian Club, in the Manhattan.  Just as a point of information, the editor at Esquire seems to always think that CC is a good substitute for rye whiskey (since it has a high rye content).  My searching has found that though bourbon has a different ratio of grains than rye, it is made by a similar process.  Canadian whiskey, on the other hand, is made differently.  I would like someone to straighten it out or explain some differences in whiskey choice as it relates to the drink.

Robert Hess 10 Sep 2010
4:20 am

Luke, Perhaps it’s just my bias, but I think of Canadian Whisky as being more for sipping, and not for mixing. If you look back to some of the old cocktail manuals, you’ll find many of them listing Canadian Whisky for use in drinks such as the Manhattan. This is primarily due to Prohibition. Back in those days, liquor wasn’t being made in the US, which means there was no American Whiskey available, not to the US, and not to the World. So at places like the famous Savoy Hotel in London, they had to change things up a little bit to make the drinks traditionally made with American Whiskey, and so the simply substituted Canadian Whisky instead. Probably a better choice then Irish or Scotch.

I suppose I should just sit down one of these days and do a side-by-side blind comparison of Rye, Bourbon, and Canadian to see how much of a difference it really makes, but if I want a Rye Manhattan and they don’t have Rye, I’ll gladly use a Bourbon instead, and not even consider using Canadian.

Luke 10 Sep 2010
4:52 am

Thanks Robert!  I too prefer bourbon in my Manhattan, at least to my inexperienced taste.  The Manhattan to me is like your Old Fashioned; it is the drink that I judge a bar by because most bartenders do not make it correctly or present it correctly (I get tired of everything being served in an tumbler!  Where is the creativity?)

Whenever you do that side-by-side comparison, please let me know what you find out.

Robert Hess 10 Sep 2010
12:24 pm

Luke, I just chatted with David Wondrich (the Esquire editor you indicate approved of using Canadian Club in a Manhattan), he begs our forgivness and blames his comment on his younger self (he wrote that 10 years ago). He has since updated his opinion on the matter and says his progression of acceptable spirit for a Manhattan is as follows:

100-proof rye, then 100-proof bourbon, then 80-proof rye, then 80-proof bourbon, then blended Scotch, then Irish whiskey, and lastly Canadian whisky

I’ll drink to that.

Charles W Greenwood 27 Feb 2011
11:00 am


It seems that OXO is not in a hurry to add that 3/4 oz mark that you and several others, I am sure would like, as well.

Note on the side of the measurer of the usual kitchen model is a marking in ml (milliliters).

22 1/2 mls = 3/4 oz.  Mark this with a piece of waterproof Steri-strip using the law of the meniscus (Wikipedia) in the ml line and this will help until OXO sees it our way.

Thanks for all you have done for this great site.

C W Greenwood MD

Robert Hess 27 Feb 2011
12:21 pm

Here is an nice jigger option that I recently picked up which has some of the benefits of the OXO, but also includes a 3/4 measurement. Overall, I think it works pretty good!
“Progressive International Magnetic Measuring Duet”

Unless you know what you are looking for, it can be a little hard to locate on Amazon, it might have something to do that the term “jigger” is never used to describe its usage.


Alan 27 Jul 2011
4:24 pm

At a point in the video you say “Well enough about bitters…”

Actually, I’d like you to do a show wholly on bitters where you talk of what different types of bitters you could add to what different types of drinks. I’ve got the mini kit from Bitter Truth which includes their aromatic, chocolate, orange, creole and celery . That’s a lot of bitters and I would love some ideas or guidance on what drinks I could maybe add them to.

Also, I am tempted to purchase the Fee Brothers Mint bitters to try in Mojitos and Mint Juleps. Has anyone tried this?

Dinah (MetaGrrrl/Bibulous) 27 Jul 2011
4:31 pm

Oo, oo, bitters show, bitters show!

We love having lots of different ones. They’re great for making mocktails (e.g. the delightful lavender/orange concoction Morgan at Nopa just served me).

Dinah from

blair frodelius 27 Jul 2011
5:02 pm


Sad to say, but out of all the wonderful Fee’s bitters, their mint is really not worth buying.  Basically, you should always use fresh mint in a cocktail.  Now, their barrel aged bitters are a true delight, and the new black walnut bitters are fantastic.  If you order from Fee’s, tell them that I sent you. 


Blair Frodelius

Alan 27 Jul 2011
5:24 pm

Thanks for the replies Dinah and blair.

I’m just curious about people’s results good or bad about putting different types of bitters into different things. I’ve read that peach bitters often goes well in bourbon cocktails.

Thanks for the heads up blair. I’ve just been tempted by it. My off-licence shop I go to has a good half dozen or so of the Fee Bros. bitters in the window and I’m somewhat intrigued by the mint one for some reason.

Robert Hess 28 Jul 2011
5:25 am

Alan, some different bitters have a tendency to work better with different spirits, while others may work best in particular combinations of ingredients.

Aromatic bitters like Angostura work well in bourbon drinks… orange bitters work well in gin drinks.

Peach bitters, which could easily be argued aren’t really bitters (since they don’t have the traditional bittering characters), can work well in various drinks to add a subtle flavor note.

Fee’s mint bitters on the other hand don’t really show up that much. The people who tend to use it the most from what I’ve seen, are chef’s in making deserts and such.

I think a good way to “check out” bitters, to see which spirits they work best with, is by simply making an “Old Fashioned” style cocktail, and using a few extra dashes just to up the ante a little.


Robert Hess 28 Jul 2011
6:15 am

Re: “Bitters Show” - this could indeed be interesting. I doubt that I could, or even want to, touch on all of the various bitters that are out there today. It is simply amazing how many different ones there are. Part of me thinks that there are even too many? Is that even possible? But do we really need 25+ different bitters?

I often wonder if some of these various bitters are being made without much consideration as to how they actually work in a cocktail AND if they are intended to play the role that bitters traditionally do, or if they are trying to be a flavorant in and of themselves instead of just a flavor enhancer.

Alan 28 Jul 2011
8:26 am

Thank you for the replies Robert.

Good point about taking the Old Fashioned and trying different bitters in it. I shall try that.

It’s kinda funny, could you have imagined a few years ago a time when you might say there are too many bitters now?! :)

I suppose maybe even just a show perhaps on your favourites. For me, I’m just mixing drink at home but fancy venturing out beyond Angostura. I’ve got the Bitter Truth’s traveler’s set:

Charles Purvis 21 Sep 2011
8:58 am

Terrific show, Robert, and particularly like this one, since the Manhattan is my favorite cocktail of all.  I’m actually a big fan of the Perfect Manhattan, which uses both Sweet and Dry Vermouth, and favor Bulleit Bourbon, with Regan’s Orange Bitters.

I’ve actually taken to pre-building (and carefully labeling!) a full liter of Manhattans and re-corking in a Bulleit Bourbon bottle, which will last me for months.  To get the water content and temperature right when it’s time to serve, I fill a nice glass full of crushed ice, pour directly from the bottle, stir with a spoon for 15 seconds or so, garnish with a cherry, and then hand a wonderful Manhattan on the rocks over to a grateful guest.  :-)

Any thoughts on the Perfect Manhattan v. the Manhattan?  It all comes down to personal preference, of course, but would love to hear from you on the history/legacy of one over the other, if there’s anything interesting there to tell.


quetulin 23 Sep 2011
8:15 pm

Robert, as you know I use Amargo Chuncho Bitters, I think you have some still, try to use it with the Manhattan, you will be surprised how it will be enhanced. please let us know when you try it.
Bitters is really a very important part of cocktail mixing and sometimes even if some recipes do not call for it, after trying the original I do add some of the AMARGO CHUNCHO Bitters.
Thanks for all the great thing you do for cocktail knowledge and mixing.

Floridan 4 Nov 2011
11:18 am

By George!! I’ve been legal age for 14 years and now I’m finally learning what enjoying a cocktail is all about! (i.e. Don’t go to T.G.I.F’s or Chili’s or the Ale House) Thank you Robert!! Old Fashioned and now Manhattan. I could spend a lot of money and time trying to find an establishment that could make them as good as you have taught me. Cherries are’a soakin’!!

Steve Rosenthal 25 Nov 2011
7:33 am

Just wanted to share a nice cherry discovery:  I saw their Maraschino and Bing cherries in my local grocery store.  I’ve tried both types in a Manhattan and would recommend either.  None of that waxy, artificial taste or texture that you get with typical jarred Maraschino cherries.  The Bings are a great change of pace for a garnish—deep color, earthier taste.


Robert Hess 25 Nov 2011
12:30 pm

Steve, those cherries do look pretty interesting, and definately worth checking out! Thanks for the info.


Lynn Ballintiner 20 Feb 2012
6:58 pm

[Sigh] I thought we had progressed here in Scottsdale…. I recently went to one of my very favorite places for drinks and snacks. This place does MANY things correctly (they use Fever Tree tonic, they use premium well spirits (e.g. the vodka is Tito’s)), but .... I ordered a Manhattan up. Out came a cocktail glass full of shaken foam. I mentioned politely to the nice bartender that Manhattans really should not be shaken. She politely told me I was wrong.

Robert W 10 Oct 2012
11:14 am

I also recently ordered a Manhattan that came to the table with a foamy top—I couldn’t even see that there was a cherry sitting on the bottom. But since the place was primarily a wine bar I just rolled my eyes and drank it.

On a brighter side, I came across a Manhattan variation in a Denver resturant called Duo. It is called a “Manhattan Transfer”—

1 1/2 oz High West Rye
3/4 oz Averna
1/2 oz Green Chartreuse
2 dashes Fee Brothers Rhubarb Bitters
Stirred and garnished with an orange twist and brandied cherry

It’s wonderful, but sounds odd. Cheers.

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