Difference Between Manhattan And Old Fashioned

Manhattan Vs. Old Fashioned

Two of the best known whiskey cocktails are the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned. You should be able order one at any bar, assuming the bartender is worth their salt. The drinks share 2/3 of the same ingredients, yet their tastes are very distinct and different.

The Manhattan offers a lot more flexibility due to the sweetner used. Vermouth comes from different companies, and each one offers a unique aroma and flavor. Dolin Vermouth is going to give a Manhattan a slightly different flavor profile over something like Carpano Vermouth. The Dolin will add flavors of apple and sherry, and the Carpano will add vanilla and raisins. An Old Fashioned uses a sugar cube as its sweetner, so you basically get the flavor of sugar.

How Are The Ingredients Different?

An Old Fashioned is made with bourbon or rye whiskey, bitters, and sugar. A Manhattan is made with rye whiskey, and it uses sweet vermouth instead of sugar. If you include a “Perfect Manhattan” then you would use equal portions of sweet and dry vermouth.

Recipes For Manhattan And Old Fashioned


  • 2 ounces rye
  • 1 ounce of sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes of bitters (Angostura)

To make this classic drink, take a cocktail glass and fill it with ice to chill it. While the glass is chilling, mix the rye, sweet vermouth and the Angostura bitters in a mixing glass and fill with ice. Slowly stir for about 15-20 seconds to chill the drink.

Empty the ice from the chilled glass, and strain in the cocktail. You can also garnish with a cherry.

Sometimes, it is made with bourbon instead of rye, but I prefer to use rye when drinking one. Most of the original references to this drink generally called for the use of whiskey, and it did not specify to use bourbon or rye. At the time, New York was primarily a rye drinking city, so most people today refer to rye as the traditional whiskey to use.

When it comes to vermouth choice, you can use any sweet vermouth, but I like to use Dolin because it makes the drink a bit softer.

Old Fashioned

  • 2 ounces of bourbon or rye
  • 3 dashes of bitters (Angostura)
  • 1 sugar cube
  • 1 orange peel

An Old Fashioned is traditionally made with bourbon, but rye can certainly be used. Take a whiskey glass and add a sugar cube to it. Next, add your bitters. You can use any brand of aromtic bitters, but I like to use Angostura. Different brands will change the taste a little bit. There is no standard rule of how many dashes you need, so fee free to added a dash more or less. The goal is to saturate the cube.

Muddle the sugar in the bottom of the glass, then add the bourbon. Stir the cocktail to mix the sugar and the bitters. Add large ice cubes to the glass. Next take an orange peel and express the oils from the peel into the glass. You can also rub the peel around the mouth of the glass before adding it as a garnish. This will allow the oils from the peel to add more flavor and aroma.

How Are They Supposed To Be Served

The Manhattan is usually served in a martini glass or a stemmed cocktail glass, and it is usally garnished with a cherry. A maraschino cherry is normally used, but feel free to branch out and try others.

The old fashioned is typically served in an “old fashioned” glass, and it is usually garnished with an orange peel. There are multiple variations of garnishes used including lemon, cherry, orange, and lemon/orange together.

How Do They Taste Different?

The old fashioned is a little sweeter due to the sugar used as a sweetner. In addition, the flavor of the whiskey stands out a little more because the old fashioned is not as complex.

Because the Manhattan uses sweet vermouth instead of sugar, it will be a little drier. Also, the added vermouth can add complexity to the drink which you can not experience in the old fashioned. Plus, there are many different brands of vermouth, and each one offers its own unique aroma and flavor. This helps to provide a more complex drink over the old fashioned.

History Of The Old Fashioned

In the 1800’s, cocktails were served as the alcoholic drink of choice. This was basically alcohol, water, and any combination of bitters, spices, and fruits like oranges and lemons.

The old fashioned rose out of desire to have a whiskey drink without all the fancy stuff added. In the late 1800’s people wanted their drinks served the old fashioned way without all the spices and fruits added. From there, the old fashioned was born. A simple drink recipe with whiskey, sugar, bitters, and a lemon peel.

History Of The Manhattan

There is some controversy when it comes to how this drink got its name. One that comes up often is the area code for Manhattan is 212, and the ingredients for the drink are 2 oz. whiskey, 1 oz. vermouth, 2 dashes of bitters. This is impossible though because there was no 212 Manhattan area code when the drink was named before 1900.

Another story is that Winston Churchill’s mother was having a party at the Manhattan club, and she wanted drinks served with vermouth and whiskey. The problem with this story is that she was in England delivering a baby at the time of the party.

There are other stories on how the drink was created. Italians were migrating heavily to New York during that time period, and they likely brought sweet vermouth with them. Because it is so similar to the old fashioned, it is plausible that someone just added vermouth instead of sugar. I guess we will never know the true origins of this drink.

About Ryan Gardner

Hi, I am Ryan Gardner. I manage and write for Country Club For Men. This site represents hobbies and activities that I enjoy. If you spend any considerable time on the site, you will figure out that I enjoy colognes/fragrances, whiskey, and sports like golf.

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