Variations on a Theme: Playing with My Manhattan Cocktail Part 1


Everyone who knows me knows that my cocktail is the Manhattan.  It’s my regular as they say.  I remember years ago, before I had tried one, I didn’t think I was going to like it because it had “vermouth” in it.  And, since I didn’t like martinis, I didn’t think I liked “vermouth”.  Silly me.

Ok…if you are new to cocktails and just reading this post because you like me (which is highly likely…you may also like Doug, which is kinda the same thing), then I should clarify why this is so silly.  Martinis have dry vermouth and manhattans are made with sweet vermouth.  They taste VERY different.

IMG_1310Here’s how I usually make mine at home:

  • 2 oz bourbon (or rye…I’ve been really into rye lately)
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes of bitters (sometimes it’s 4 if I’m not paying attention)

Stirred and strained into a cocktail glass with cherry garnish.

Because I drink them often enough, I do have to watch my wallet so I tend not to go all out on the ingredients.  Bulleit Bourbon or Rye (pictured above) and Buffalo Trace are my most common brands.  And, to be totally honest, I often buy Trader Joe’s Kentucky Bourbon Straight Whiskey.  It’s only $14 a bottle and tastes pretty much just like Bulleit.  LOVE IT!  I also skimp on the vermouth (but not too much) but don’t ever skimp on the cherries.  Yes, I pay $20 a jar for Luxado Maraschino Cherries.  I mean, I’m not a snob, I can tolerate the bright red, fake maraschino cherries that I would rock in my Shirley Temples as a kid (god rest her soul) but I’m a grown up now.  So, if I can do better, I will.

The cool thing about the Manhattan is that, it may be simple, but it can taste hundreds of different ways.  I try a fancier spirit (or a cheaper one) and it changes.  Try a different vermouth (Antica Carparo is always a wonderful alternative for a special occasion) and it changes.  And, of course, the bitters.  There are hundreds of different types of bitters and they are fun to play around with in a Manhattan cocktail.

peach bitters and vanillaI just recently received a bottle of Fee Bros Peach Bitters as a gift.  I opened it, smelled it, and immediately thought it would be lovely in my regular old Manhattan along with a splash of vanilla.  A little peaches and cream.  I added 2 dashes of bitters and 1/4 tsp of vanilla.  I think I might try a touch more of each next time.

What do you think?  What variations have you tried?  I promise to try more and let you know how they turn out.

About the Author


Social Entrepreneur. Writer/Blogger. Theater teaching artist. Amateur mixologist. Girl Advocate. Writer. Fost/adopt mama. Learner. Playful Idealist. Find me on Twitter @lynnjohnson.

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