How To Stir A Manhattan Cocktail For The Perfect Taste

You might believe that a drink can only achieve maximum blending and the iciest temperature when it's shaken in a cocktail shaker with ice. Surely, James Bond is partly to blame for this assumption, at least when it comes to martinis. But, in truth, there are certain libations that don't benefit from a shake at all and, in fact, taste better when stirred. A classic Manhattan is one of them.

A warming, potent drink that puts the flavor of whiskey on display by accentuating it with bitters and vermouth, a perfect Manhattan is served up cold without a hint of cloudiness in a martini glass and is garnished with a high-quality maraschino cherry. The ingredients should be stirred with a bar spoon over ice for 20 to 25 circular rotations to achieve the transparency and correct temperature. This is enough to chill the drink but not enough to break up the ice and overly dilute the delicate cocktail. Some simply stir for 20 to 30 seconds rather than count the number of stirs. The point is, you don't want to overdo it because it can truly affect the flavor of the drink.

It's all about dilution

Dilution of a Manhattan isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it actually needs a bit of dilution to make it shine. This is where the ice comes in. Once the whiskey, vermouth, and bitters are poured over it, the ice will naturally begin to melt. Shaking the mixture breaks up the ice very quickly, which can create a watery, bland cocktail, and too much stirring can create the same effect. It's true that you can achieve a colder temperature in a shorter amount of time if you combine drinks in a shaker, so to combat this, try to pre-chill your glass and spoon before you make your stirred Manhattan.

Just like shaking and over stirring can ruin a Manhattan, under stirring isn't ideal either. If you don't stir enough, you won't get the proper chill or flavor, and the drink will hit you with a strong, overpowering, alcoholic punch. As silly as it might sound, it's definitely worth counting your stirs or setting a timer if you want to create a Manhattan that is ice cold on your lips, pleasant on your tastebuds, and nice and warm as it goes down.

Creating your ideal Manhattan

Once you have the stirring and, therefore, temperature and balance, down, you can play around with the other elements of the drink that will make it your signature Manhattan. Start with the whiskey. This is a highly potent drink that highlights the flavor of the prominent alcohol, so you'll want to use a good whiskey that you enjoy on its own, whether that's American rye or bourbon. Equally important are the vermouth and bitters. 

Traditionally, a Manhattan calls for sweet vermouth, but many people like to combine sweet and dry vermouths together in their cocktail. As far as the bitters go, Angostura bitters are the classic choice, but there are so many flavors on the market now (like orange and chocolate), that you might find another that suits your taste more. You could even swap in a bitter liqueur like Campari or Aperol.

Finally, a Manhattan needs a garnish. While a maraschino cherry is the most popular option, many will opt for a lemon twist, which adds wonderfully flavorful citrus oils to the surface of the drink. When it comes to the cherry, invest in something luxurious — like Luxardo or Italian Amarena cherries. They are leaps and bounds more flavorful than the standard maraschinos you put on ice cream sundaes. No matter which ingredients you use for your Manhattan, they'll all be perfectly chilled and perfectly combined by a couple dozen stirs with ice.