Looking for a sweet cocktail with a little bit of an edge?  This perfect Manhattan recipe has got you covered.  Rye, sweet vermouth, bitters and some amarena cherries combine to form a drink that is as epic as the city it was named for.  We are all about the pairing – Our reverse seared ribeye steak recipe would go so well with this cocktail.  Check it out if you’re preparing  this as a pre-dinner drink.

A glass of the perfect Manhattan recipe and two amarena cherries on a skewer.

Sweet + bitter = the perfect Manhattan recipe

If you enjoy a sweet cocktail now and again, you will love this Manhattan.

Love bitters? You will love this Manhattan.

If cherries, cherry juice and the luxuriousness of cherry syrup sound good to you,  you will love this Manhattan.

Are rye, bourbon and whisky based drinks your favorite?  If so, you will love this Manhattan.

Get my point?  This drink covers all bases and spans all types of palates.  And with only a few ingredients needed, this will also appeal to anyone looking for a simple, but classy cocktail.

How To Make A Manhattan – Rye or Bourbon?

Traditionally, the Manhattan is made using Rye.  Legally speaking, rye must be fermented from a mash whose majority is grain as opposed to bourbon which must be fermented from a mash whose majority is corn.  Some state that bourbons are a bit sweeter, while ryes tend to be more grassy.

I am unable to tell the difference between the two.  And I’m not alone.  According to a study conducted by Drexel University, the average consumer cannot discriminate between the two flavors.  If you are interested in geeking out on this topic and learning more about mashbills of ryes, bourbons and American whiskeys, check out this article from the Smithsonian which goes into greater detail.

The main reason I used rye in this recipe is because it was my great-grandmothers alcohol of choice for her Manhattans and she’s the one who inspired me to make this in the first place.  More on that in a few.

Maraschino or Amarena?

Maraschino cherries tend to get a bad rap, and I can see why.  Often times, the more affordable brands are packed in high fructose corn syrup with lots of preservatives and get their color from Red 40.  The brands with better ingredients, such as Luxardo can be pretty pricey – a 400g jar will run you anywhere from $18 – $24.

Enter the Amarena.  These bold and tart beauties are my go-to for sweet cocktails, ice cream toppings and sometimes just pairing with cheese.  And the best part is, I’ve found these at Trader Joe’s for under $5.  Even better, they use carrot and hibiscus as coloring agents yielding this gorgeous deep purple, almost black cherry.

So really, you could use either, but I adore these Amarenas for the perfect Manhattan recipe.

A glass with the Manhattan and two cherries on a skewer.
Look how gorgeous these cherries are.

An Homage to Manhattan

Manhattan will always be my favorite borough of New York City.  It is not only the birthplace of my parents and grandparents, but it has this incredible energy and vibe about it that makes it unique.

From its skyscrapers, to its cobblestone streets in the historic districts, this city has so much to offer those who visit.  The city really doesn’t sleep offering around the clock entertainment and dining options.

But I’m not writing this to try and convince you to visit Manhattan.  As always, I have a story to go with this drink.

The Perfect Manahattan Recipe:  My Story

My great-grandmother was born in Manhattan in 1917.  A smart, shrewd and sassy woman, she rose through the ranks of the NY telephone company and was a financially independent, business-world pioneering, rock star of a woman.  This was no small feat for that time, and I always admired her for that.

She passed away when I was 16 but I always remember her as a class act – almost a relic of the era and the city in which she came of age.

Her liquor of choice was rye, and her favorite cocktail, named after the city that both challenged and developed her, was the Manhattan.

When I make a Manhattan for myself, or a loved one, I am not just mixing a cocktail.  I’m carrying on a matrilineal tradition, adding a dash of history to its contents.

Cheers Florence – this Manhattan’s for you!

Let’s Mix

To make this perfect Manhattan recipe, you’ll need the following:

  • Rye – I used Bulleit
  • Sweet vermouth
  • Bitters
  • Amarena cherries plus their syrup
  • Ice
  • Cocktail Shaker
  • Coupe glass/Martini glass (or rocks glass if you prefer it with ice)
Bottles of rye, sweet vermouth, bitters and amarena cherries.
The ingredients for the perfect Manhattan recipe.

Add the rye, vermouth and bitters to your cocktail shaker along with a handful of ice.

A cocktail shaker and cocktail jigger.

Adding the rye.

A cocktail shaker and bottle of bitters.

Now for the bitters.

The Manhattan ingredients plus ice in a cocktail shaker.
All mixed up.

You are now ready to shake or stir your cocktail for at least 20 seconds.

You’ll want to coat the bottom of the glass with a spoonful of the cherry syrup.

Hand holding a coupe glass with a coating of cherry syrup.
Coating the glass.

Grab a few cherries for your garnish.  I like to skewer them but you can also place them in the bottom of the glass – the choice is yours!  Strain and pour into your glass.

A glass with cherry syrup and two cherries on a toothpick.
The garnish.
A cocktail shaker pouring the Manhattan into a glass with cherries.
The pour.
Perfect Manhattan Recipe finished.
The Perfect Manhattan Recipe final shot.

And there you have it friends.  The Manhattan.   The sweet cocktail with enough of an edge for a whiskey lover.

If you’re looking for another classic cocktail, check out our Long Island Iced Tea recipe.


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The Perfect Manhattan Recipe with Rye and Amarena Cherries

4.67 from 6 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 5 minutes
Total: 10 minutes
Servings: 1
This classic Manhattan combines rye, sweet vermouth, bitters and amarena cherries for the perfect blend of sweet and bold. 


  • 2 oz Rye
  • 1 oz Sweet red vermouth
  • 2 dashes bitters
  • 2 Amarena cherries for garnish
  • 1 tsp Amarena cherry syrup
  • 1 cup ice


  • Add the ice, rye, sweet red vermouth and bitters to a cocktail shaker.
  • Shake or stir for at least 20 seconds.
  • Coat the bottom of a glass with the cherry syrup and skewer two cherries for garnish.
  • Strain the cocktail shaker ingredients and pour into a glass.
  • Serve immediately.  Enjoy!


  • Bourbon may also be used.


Calories: 190kcal

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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  1. louise says:

    5 stars
    This is lovely. Made it with the leftover amarena cherries from Christmas. And black vermut from Casa mariol. Mixed with Angostura. I started out with a conservative amount of rye. It almost had the taste of a cherry coke. So good. Very girly. I then added more Rye, for a more adult version. Indeed, very good

    1. Jim says:

      Thanks for the comment, Louise and so happy you enjoyed it!

  2. Kristin Sanders says:

    I loved your post and writing style. Detailed and interesting without droning on, like many blog recipes do. Maybe you got me by being all nostalgics about your great grandma from Manhattan. Great photos and explanations. I wouldn’t drink whiskey for years, but Rye has grown on me and I love a Manhattan once in awhile. I have grandparents from Brooklyn, and I totally get how you can feel connected to them, honoring them almost, by making their favorite drinks. Good info on cherry types. My only critique is my opinion that Angostura bitters are better than Peychauds, lol! Cheers to you and Florence!

    1. Jim says:

      Hi Kristin. Glad you enjoyed the post. All the writing credit for this recipe goes to my wife. We’ll have to try the Angostura bitters next time we go shopping!

  3. Cherie says:

    5 stars
    You had me at Manhattan and Amarena cherries! I use Bourbon but will use the next time. BTW, Trader Joe’s only carries the Amarenas seasonally…Dammit! I made a trip there today specifically for several jars. Out till next November-WHAT?!?

    Your great grandmother’s recipe IS the bomb!! Love a Manhattan with Amarenas!

    1. Jim says:

      Thanks so much! We just learned too that they only have them for a very short time each year. Definitely stocking up next year!

  4. Michele says:

    Absolutely delish. I’ve kept my distance from Manhattan’s because they seemed too boozey (bourbon dominating) for me. Made these tonight for hubby and myself and loved it. The cherry swirling in the glass and Amarena cherries make it the bomb. Thank you! Btw: Great site and recipes

    1. Jim says:

      Thanks and glad you both enjoyed it! Yeah, those Amarena cherries are good.

  5. dan says:

    5 stars
    Forgot to add…………Florence, this one’s for you. Cheers.

    1. James says:

      Thank you!

  6. dan says:

    3 stars
    James…………great choice of rye & cherries.too…..BUT you need to upgrade to a good vermouth. I suggest Carpano Antica Formula..1786 vermouth by Guiseppe B. Carpano.
    Also I have been using an excellent rye from Cleveland Whiskey, called Cleveland Underground rye whiskey finished with Black Cherry Wood…… Outstanding. Try it.

    1. James says:

      Hi Dan. I will defintely give that Vermouth a go. I have been using the same one for too long. And, I’m always looking for a new whiskey to try!

  7. Micah S Kendall says:

    5 stars
    Bulleit rye and amarena cherries are both my favorites for any recipe. 10/10 execution. Simple sweet and versatile.

    1. James says:

      Thanks very much and glad you enjoyed it!