BEST BOURBON FOR
MANHATTAN COCKTAIL

A manhattan is a classic American cocktail. Although its origins are mysterious, there's no mystery in why this cocktail has been a popular bar request for over a century. It's a drink that blends the floral with the fortified and sweet with the spicy. While the recipe is simple and unchanged, choosing the best bourbon for your manhattan is an important part of the mixing process...

best bourbon for manhattan cocktail

A manhattan is a classic American cocktail. Although its origins are mysterious, there's no mystery in why this cocktail has been a popular bar request for over a century. It's a drink that blends the floral with the fortified and sweet with the spicy. While the recipe is simple and unchanged, choosing the best bourbon for your manhattan is an important part of the mixing process. 

What Is in a Manhattan?

A popular cocktail for any bourbon or whiskey lover, a manhattan is traditionally comprised of whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. Some bartenders may insist that a manhattan must be made with rye whiskey, but bourbon or Canadian whisky also make an acceptable base. Angostura bitters are usually used, although citrus lovers may want to swap for orange bitters. The traditional garnish is a lemon peel or maraschino cherry. However, if you choose the best bourbon possible for your base, other variations in the drink may become less important.

History of the Manhattan

The origins of the manhattan remain a mystery. However, there are two popular stories that always arise when discussing the drink's murky beginnings. One story involves a doctor making a drink for a high-level New York socialite. According to the lore, Dr. Ian Marshall invented the drink in the 1880s for Lady Randolph Churchill. The name is in reference to the Manhattan Club in New York, where this interaction supposedly took place. However, this story is probably false because actual recorded history shows Lady Churchill was in Europe and pregnant with the future Prime Minister Winston Churchill. 

Another story states that in the 1860s, a bartender by the name of "Black" created the manhattan at a bar on Broadway. However, the Manhattan Club still lays claim that the drink originated in its establishment, probably because of the sketchy details associated with the second story. One of the earliest written recipes for a manhattan is found in the classic drink and cocktails book "The Flowing Bowl" by William Schmidt published in 1891. This recipe calls for simple syrup, bitters, vermouth, whiskey, and a dash of absinthe. 

Manhattans Made of Sour Mash Rye

When you ask a bartender to make you a manhattan, they'll always ask you one question first — bourbon or rye. While both rye and bourbon make a great base for many cocktails, there are quite a few differences between these two whiskeys. In terms of taste, rye produces drinks with a spicier punch and tasting notes of grass and pepper. Bourbon makes for a sweeter drink with an overall lighter and smoother taste. Sour mash rye has an especially spicy taste because of the acidic qualities produced during the fermentation process. 

Rabbit Hole Boxergrail Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey is a great sour mash rye bourbon to use if you want a little less sweetness in your drink. Being a rye whiskey, it definitely has a peppery finish, but it's balanced with sweet notes of citrus, butterscotch, and black tea. Although manhattans are usually made with Angostura bitters, orange bitters would pair well with this rye. Sometimes the best bourbon to use in your drink is one made with rye. 

Manhattans Made With Four-Grain Bourbon

A triple malt bourbon made from four grains, like Rabbit Hole Distillery's Cavehill, can give your manhattan a distinct flavor. Malting is the method of germinating or sprouting grain to a certain level and then stopping the germination process before adding it to the mash bill. The "triple malt" in triple malt bourbon refers to the fact that three malted grains were used in the mash bill. Cavehill bourbon is made from a mash bill of 70% corn, 10% malted wheat, 10% malted barley, and 10% honey malted barley. 

This is the best bourbon if you want a manhattan with a creamy flavor full of strong notes of orange, honey, and vanilla. Using this as a base for your cocktail will result in a mellow taste and a sweet, almost syrupy flavor.


Manhattans Made With High Rye Double Malt Bourbon

A high rye bourbon is obviously made with a large percentage of rye grain, which results in a strong, peppery taste. Double malt means that out of the three grains used to produce the bourbon, only two are malted. High rye bourbons have a fruity and floral taste, while malted grains can produce a woody, nutty, and chocolate-like flavor. For a complex flavor in your cocktail, this is by far the best bourbon to use. 

Rabbit Hole Distillery's Heigold high rye double malt bourbon comprises corn, German malted rye, and malted barley. It's known for its deep, caramel flavor, making it the best bourbon to use in a manhattan. 

Manhattans Made With Cask-Finished Bourbon

Looking for a manhattan with a mature yet approachable taste? The best bourbon to use here is one that's cask finished. A cask-finished bourbon is transferred to a secondary cask after its initial maturation. As the bourbon matures in this secondary cask, it takes on the flavor of what was in the cask previously. This leads to the bourbon's complex taste. For example, a bourbon finished in a cask that previously held a tequila is going to take on some of the tequila's flavor notes. 

Rabbit Hole Distillery uses a sherry cask to create its Dareringer Sherry Cask Finish Bourbon. Sherry is a type of pale, dry wine. Rabbit Hole uses PX Sherry, which is known for being a naturally sweet dessert wine. Traditional manhattan recipes call for a bit of vermouth, a fortified wine. Using a sherry cask-finish bourbon is the best bourbon if you want to highlight the floral wine aspect of a manhattan. 

A manhattan may be a traditional drink that's over 100 years old but there are many ways to make this cocktail your own. Choosing the best bourbon to use in this cocktail can help you put your own spin on this New York City classic.









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