9 manhattan cocktail variations that everybody should know

The Manhattan drink or martini is probably one of the most popular and well known drinks. It is considered one of the basic drinks according to the classic cocktail book The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks by David Embury.

There are several accounts of the drink dating back to the 19th century. The most popular legend about the drink places its origin in Manhattan in the 1870s. However, there are recipes attributed to the same drink as early as the 1860s. As with the drinks that has been popular for so long, there are a lot of variations that has developed over time.

Here are some of the most well-known variations of the Manhattan drink that are probably just as popular as the original.

1. Classic or Traditional Manhattan

The traditional Manhattan is the recipe that is generally accepted as the original (and the most popular) version of the drink. The drink uses the American Rye Whiskey as its base spirit. Often Bourbon or Canadian Whiskey is substituted for Rye as well. The other ingredient in the drink is the sweet vermouth. The drink is finished off with bitters.

Manhattan Cocktail Drink

You can use either the Angostura bitters or Peychaud bitters. Some times even a combination of the two bitters are used.

The common proportion of the drink is 3 parts of Whiskey to 1 part of the vermouth. It can also made with equal parts of Whiskey and Vermouth.

2. Dry Manhattan

Because the red or sweet vermouth being on the sweeter side, the traditional Manhattan can be seen as on the sweeter side as well. In the quest to reduce the sweetness of the drink, the Dry Manhattan uses dry or white vermouth in the place of sweet vermouth.

Dry Manhattan Cocktail

The proportions generally stay the same. You use 3 parts of the Whiskey to 1 part Dry Vermouth.

3. Perfect Manhattan

The Perfect Manhattan is a combination of the previous two variations of the drink. It uses equals parts of Sweet and Dry Vermouth. The drink is a good combination of sweetness and dryness of the two types of vermouth. Still, it feels like an acquired taste and is not as popular as the other two variations.

A perfect manhattan with rye whiskey

Sometimes tinkering with the proportions of the Whiskey to Vermouth is a good idea to suite your taste. The perfect manhattan has 2 parts of the rye whiskey with 1 part each of the dry and sweet vermouth with the bitters.

4. Paris Manhattan

Unlike the other variations of the drink, this recipe follows a different pattern. The base spirit in the drink is the Rye Whiskey as in the traditional, but the other ingredients are Dry Vermouth and Elder flower liqueur.

Paris Manhattan cocktail

The drink is also sometimes known as the Elderflower Manhattan.

5. Fourth Regiment

This variation of Manhattan uses a combination of three different bitters: Orange bitters, Celery bitters and Peychaud bitters. Unlike the traditional version, the proportion of the ingredients are different as well. Equal parts of Whiskey and Sweet Vermouth is used in this drink.


Most times, the variations of the drink is created by substituting the base spirit in the drink. Vodka, Gin, Whiskey, Tequila, Brandy and Rum are all good examples of what is considered a base spirit. You will see that the recipes below follow more or less a general pattern.

6. Brandy Manhattan

A Brandy Manhattan as the name suggests uses Brandy as the base spirit in the drink. The Whiskey is replaced by Brandy and the recipe uses the exactly the same proportions of the traditional Manhattan recipe.

A Brandy Manhattan Cocktail

The drink contains 3 parts of Brandy and 1 part of sweet vermouth.

7. Scotch Manhattan or Rob Roy

This drink is better known as Rob Roy. It replaces the Rye or Bourbon Whiskey with Scotch Whisky. You can use either a Single Malt Scotch or a Blended Scotch for this drink, as long as it is a good quality whisky.

Rob Roy cocktail drink with Scotch Whiskey

You can create other variations of the drink, along the lines of the traditional Manhattan. The Dry Rob Roy uses Scotch Whisky along with the dry vermouth as in the Dry Manhattan. The other variation of the drink is the Perfect Rob Roy which uses equal parts of Dry and Sweet Vermouth in the drink.

8. Cuban Manhattan

The base spirit in this variation is the Dark Rum in lieu of the Whiskey. The drink recipe actually is a variation of the Perfect Manhattan rather than the traditional Manhattan.

cuban manhattan cocktail

Use equal proportions of Dry and Sweet Vermouth along with the Dark Rum for this drink.

9. Tijuana Manhattan

As with the previous couple of drinks, the Whiskey is replaced with Anejo Tequila as the base spirit in this drink. The rest of the ingredients stay the same.

tijuana manhattan or tequila manhattan

You can make other variations of this drink such as the Dry Tijuana Manhattan and Perfect Tijuana Manhattan by using the sweet and dry vermouth in the drink following the pattern in the previous recipes.

So, as long as you have a base spirit, some kind of vermouth and bitters you should be able to make some variation of the Manhattan cocktail. It is also one of those drinks that can be a signature drink for large gatherings, and you can easily make variations to suit everybody’s taste.