According to David Embury’s classic book The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, the Manhattan cocktail is one of six basic drinks. Simply put, it’s one of the classics.
The Manhattan uses three key ingredients: whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. The most commonly used whiskeys include bourbon, Canadian whiskey, Tennessee whiskey, and rye, which is the usual choice.
History of the Manhattan cocktail
So where did the drink come from? One account says it’s from New York’s Manhattan Club in New York in the 1870s, concocted by a Dr. Iain Marshall for a banquet hosted by Lady Randolph Churchill for presidential candidate Samuel J. Tilden.
Since the banquet was a big hit, the Manhattan rose to prominence as well. People later ask for the drink by referring to the name of the club where it came from.
There’s a problem with this story though: Lady Randolph was pregnant and in France during this time, so this origin is most likely bogus.
There are earlier references to similar recipes called “Manhattan” from the New York borough. Another story says it was invented in the 1860s by a bartender named Black, at a bar on Broadway near Houston Street.