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The best whiskey options to make your Manhattan drink recipe even better

Rye whiskey is classic, but not the only option

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The Manhattan is one of the most well-known classic cocktails ever created. Like many famous mixed drinks, its history is a bit mysterious. One version of the story says that the drink was made at New York City’s Manhattan Club in the 1870s by a bartender named Iain Marshall. There is a mention of the drink in the later 1800s in a book written by bartender Wiliam F. Mulhall. Regardless of who created it, this whiskey-driven cocktail has stood the test of time.

Whiskey barrels
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Whiskey matters

This iconic drink is similar to the Old Fashioned, except instead of whiskey, sugar, water, and Angostura bitters, the Manhattan is made with whiskey, Angostura bitters, and sweet vermouth. While the other ingredients are important, the whisky is the key. The bitters add a bit of spice to the mix, and the vermouth adds a fruity sweetness, but the big, bold flavor is the whisky. The other ingredients are only there so the whiskey can shine through.

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Our 5 favorite whiskeys to mix into a Manhattan

Rye is the preferred whiskey for a Manhattan. It gives the drink an added, peppery, spicy flavor to the other sweeter flavors. This creates a perfectly balanced cocktail. But this rye-based whiskey isn’t the only whiskey you can mix into a Manhattan. The drink can be made with bourbon, Canadian whisky, Tennessee whiskey, and other types of whiskey. We picked five great choices. Keep scrolling to see them all.

Michter’s US-1 Kentucky Straight Rye

Michter’s US-1 Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey

You can’t go wrong when you mix up a Manhattan using a classic rye whiskey as the base. We prefer Michter’s US-1 Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey. This 84.8-proof single-barrel whiskey was matured in fire-charred, new American white oak barrels. Made using sheared rye, it’s known for its palate of candied orange peels, caramelized sugar, charred wood, vanilla, and spicy, peppery rye. It’s guaranteed to add a nice spicy kick to your favorite cocktail.

Still Austin Straight Bourbon
Still Austin

Still Austin Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Made with white corn, this Texas-made bourbon whiskey is known for its high-rye mash bill. It’s a balanced mix of sweetness and spice. Also known as the “Musician,” this whiskey is known for its nose of toasted coconuts, caramelized pineapple, oaky, caramel, and vanilla. The palate is loaded with candied pecans, cinnamon sugar, butterscotch, and toffee; It will add a nice kick of corn sweetness and peppery rye to your Manhattan.

Alberta Premium Cask Strength

Alberta Premium Cask Strength Canadian Whisky

Alberta Premium Cask Strength Whisky is like the Manhattan trifecta. It’s a Canadian whisky, it’s a rye whiskey, and it’s cask strength. What’s not to love? Made with 100% rye, this highly popular whisky has a potent alcohol content between 65-66%, depending on the batch. Sure to elevate your Manhattan, Alberta Premium Cask Strength Canadian Whisky is known for its flavors of butterscotch, vanilla beans, dried fruits, chocolate, candied orange peels, and peppery, spicy rye at the finish.

George Dickel Barrel Select
George Dickel

George Dickel Barrel Select Tennessee Whiskey

A sublimely well-balanced Tennessee whiskey, the process begins with a mash bill of 84% corn, 8% rye, and 8% malted barley. This award-winning 86-proof whiskey is matured for a minimum of nine years in charred oak barrels. Its charcoal mellowed to create a smooth, complex whiskey well-suited for sipping or mixing into a drink like a Manhattan, thanks to notes of vanilla beans, caramel, oak, and light wintry spices.

Old Ezra 7
Old Ezra

Old Ezra 7-Year-Old Bourbon

This 117-proof bourbon was matured for at least seven years in charred white oak barrels. Thanks to a tried-and-true mash bill of corn, rye, and barley, this award-winning whiskey is known for its flavors of cinnamon candy, charred oak, butterscotch, candied nuts, dried fruits, and toasted vanilla beans. The finish is warming, sweet, and bold. This high-proof whiskey is sure to hold its own against the strong flavors any cocktail.

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Pick the right whiskey for you

We listed a few great choices above, but picking the right whiskey for your Manhattan is all about your particular palate. If you have the means, you should purchase a few different types of whiskey and experiment to find the best flavors that appeal to you. Bourbon offers a sweet corn backbone. Rye gives your drink a little kick of peppery spice. Cask strength whiskey offers an expression that’ll stand up in this drink without getting lost in the background. If you’re only going to buy one bottle to tick all of those boxes, we suggest a high-proof rye whiskey. Spicy, sweet, and boozy. There’s no better way to construct a classic Manhattan cocktail.

Editors' Recommendations

Christopher Osburn
Christopher Osburn is a food and drinks writer located in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. He's been writing professional
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