You need more than the right rye whiskey to make a great Manhattan. The four-ingredient cocktail also requires a well-curated sweet vermouth. Though it needs to be a good quality bottle, it needn’t break the bank—you are mixing it with powerful whiskey, after all. Finding a happy medium isn’t tough, especially because we’re here to lend a hand and present to you our six favorite sweet vermouths for Manhattans.
For an Old-School Manhattan: Carpano Antico Formula ($15.99 for 375mL)
This vermouth has remained unchanged since it was first created by Casa Carpano in 1786. A meticulous and lengthy production process, along with the highest quality ingredients, are responsible for its smooth, refined taste. It will hit your nose with a bouquet of vanilla and the sweet-spicy combo of raisins and cloves. Vanilla continues on the palate with hints of bitter orange, dates, cocoa beans and exotic saffron.
For a Citrusy Manhattan: Noilly Prat Rouge ($6.96 for 375mL)
Before smooth-sailing steamships began transporting cargo in the 19th century, casks of Noilly Prat vermouth were transported via weather-beaten wooden ships. These long journeys would age the vermouth in a unique way, deepening its color and flavor. To mimic this old world production, Noilly Prat vermouth is still aged in oak barrels in Marseillan, France, where it’s exposed to wind, rain, sun and sea spray. Spicy notes of saffron, cloves and cocoa beans will accentuate the orange bitters in a Manhattan.
For a Bittersweet Manhattan: Vya Sweet Vermouth ($13.96 for 375 mL)
Vya’s blend of Tinta Roriz, orange muscat and dry white wine is hand-infused with more than 17 herbs and spices at Quady’s California winery. Many of those botanicals come from seeds, bark and roots, which help to balance Vya’s sweet taste with just the right amount of bitterness. This combination of flavors makes it perfect to pair with whiskey, especially spicy rye.
A recreation of Giulio Cocchi’s original 1891 recipe, this is one of only two geographically protected AOC vermouths. It starts with a base of quality moscato wine, which the producers instill with a secret recipe of both local and exotic botanicals. The resulting vermouth is full-flavored and thick on the palate, with notes of cherry, menthol, orange peel, bold liquorice, and savory, herbal touches of tarragon and bitter leaves.
For a Drier Manhattan: Dolin Rouge Vermouth ($9.99 for 375mL)
Produced in the bustling French mountain town of Chambery, Dolin Rouge is on the drier side of the sweet vermouth spectrum. It’s made using the fine wines and botanicals found in the Alpine meadows surrounding the region, which create a light and balanced spirit. Expect rich flavors of apple and hints of sherry when mixing this into a Manhattan or sipping it on the rocks.
For a Smooth, Round Manhattan: La Quintinye Rouge ($19.99 for 750 mL)
This vermouth pays tribute to botanist Jean-Baptiste de la Quintinye, who created the Versailles Kitchen Gardens for Louis XIV. It’s made from a blend of white wines and Pineau des Charentes Rouge, and then infused with a variety of 28 plants and spices. Liquorice, prune, vanilla and chocolate hit the nose before bursts of caramel, burnt vanilla and warm spices drench the palate with a long, smooth finish. This vermouth is wonderful in all of our favorite classics, especially the Manhattan.
For an Herbal Manhattan: Carpano Punt e Mes ($22 for 750mL)
It’s said that in April of 1870, a stockbroker ordered his usual vermouth in the Carpano wine shop with a half measure of something bitter—aka, a “Punt e Mes.” And this classic vermouth was born. The bittersweet vermouth adds an herbal touch and sweet orange accent to the Manhattan and gives the drink an underlying golden glow. It finishes with a bitter quina flavor and ends on a sweet note, which makes it a perfect vermouth for the Manhattan drinker who often finds the classic cocktail a little too sweet.