A classic American cocktail, the Manhattan was invented in -- you guessed it -- Manhattan in the mid-1800s, and maintains a revered status in any reputable bar. This whiskey and vermouth cocktail is usually served "up," that is, mixed with cracked ice to cool the liquor and strained into a chilled glass. It can be served on the rocks if you prefer a cold drink with some dilution from the melting ice cubes.
Pour 2 parts whiskey into a pint glass or highball glass. Manhattan purists insist rye whiskey is the only way to go, but bourbon whiskey is common particularly in Southern states. You can even use Scotch whisky, though this cocktail is commonly called a Rob Roy. Manhattan making relies on precision, so measure carefully to get the proportions correct. For a Manhattan in an old-fashioned or rocks glass, start with 2 ounces of whiskey.
Add 1 part vermouth to the whiskey base. A standard Manhattan uses sweet vermouth, also called Italian vermouth. Use dry -- or French -- vermouth if you prefer a dry Manhattan, or divide the 1 part equally between dry and sweet vermouth to make what's called a perfect Manhattan.
Shake 2 to 3 dashes of bitters over the ingredients.
Crack a few ice cubes in your hand, using a bar spoon or the handle of a butter knife. Add enough cracked ice cubes to fill the pint glass at least 3/4 full. Cracked ice cools the cocktail more easily than whole cubes; crushed ice also works.
Stir the cocktail for about 30 seconds to thoroughly combine and cool the ingredients.
Add 3 to 4 whole ice cubes to a chilled old-fashioned glass, also called a rocks glass because it is the standard glass used to serve drinks "on the rocks."
Slip a cocktail strainer into the pint glass and strain the Manhattan into the old-fashioned glass over the ice. If you don't have a strainer on hand, use the back side of a fork.
Garnish the drink with a maraschino cherry or lemon twist. As a general rule, use the cherry garnish for a standard Manhattan, or a lemon twist for variations that use dry vermouth. Cut a 1 1/2-inch-by-1/2-inch rectangle of lemon rind, but don't include the white pith. Twist the garnish over the drink to release the fragrant lemon oils. Drop the lemon twist in the drink.
Regardless of how carefully you measure ingredients, you can't make a high quality Manhattan with low quality ingredients. To do this classic cocktail justice, splurge on your ingredients, choosing top rail liquor and vermouth. Keep vermouth chilled after opening to better maintain its flavor.
A Manhattan up is typically served in a V-shaped cocktail glass, but an old-fashioned glass is the standard choice for drinks served on the rocks.