Why Vermouth Can Make or Break Your Manhattan


The Manhattan is one America's iconic cocktails. There are a wide range of stories and myths to where and how the cocktail first became famous, but no matter what your origin of choice, there's no mistaking the Manhattan as one of bar-goers' favorite drinks of choice.

It's a relatively simple cocktail that includes two ounces of rye whiskey, one ounce of Italian sweet vermouth, and two dashes of Angostura bitters. It should be stirred in cracked ice and strained into a cocktail glass with a twist of lemon or a Maraschino cherry.

There are also variations of the Manhattan – almost too many to count – that substitute or slightly add to the ingredient list. For example, a Perfect Manhattan adds dry vermouth in equal parts to sweet vermouth. A Rob Roy substitutes Scotch whisky for rye. To get to Brooklyn, substitute French vermouth for Italian vermouth and add a dash of Amer Picon.

Regardless, as with any simple cocktail, the quality of the ingredients will dictate the quality of the drink. Use good rye, and you'll get a good cocktail. Likewise, use high quality vermouth that is properly stored, and you'll get a better cocktail, as well.

Vermouth is an interesting ingredient, though, as it is basically a fortified wine. And like all wines, if it is improperly stored, it goes bad. Improper storage, along with substandard production methods that popped up after World War II, eventually led to a decline in the quality of vermouth and all associated cocktails.

Recently, though, vermouth-based drinks have seen resurgence in the modern craft cocktail era. From the Negroni to the aforementioned Manhattan, cocktails containing vermouth have never been more popular. With this popularity come new pressures on bartenders and beverage program directors to keep good vermouth in stock. And even more important, to store it properly.

Learn more about the resurgence of vermouth. Watch a world famous bartender make the perfect Negroni. And see a new piece of underbar equipment that is revolutionizing the craft cocktail industry. 

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* Photo courtesy of Graeme Maclean


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