The 5 Best Bourbons for Your Manhattan

Courtesy of Woodford Reserve

The haters may say that a Manhattan can only be mixed with rye, but to that we say pish posh. While the classic whiskey cocktail was originally made with the spicy spirit, fans of a sweeter take on the drink should feel no shame sipping it with delicious bourbon. Here are the five best bottlings to use when making a Manhattan.

For an Ultra-Smooth Manhattan: Woodford Reserve Bourbon ($34)

Woodford Reserve is always a reliable bourbon, so it makes for an equally reliable Manhattan at the end of a long day. It’s rich and round, with lots of luscious cocoa, cinnamon and toffee notes, along with a bright citrus twinge. If you’re looking for an ultra-smooth Manhattan, this is the bourbon to use.

For a Full-Bodied Manhattan: Jim Beam Black ($20)

This bourbon is a steal for the price and sips perfectly, both neat and in cocktails. Because it’s aged for years longer than original Jim Beam, it has an extra full body and smooth flavor that tastes of caramel and oak. Keep a bottle around for your Manhattans, and you won’t be disappointed.

For a Spicy Manhattan: Big House Bourbon ($22)

While the price of this top-notch bourbon averages around $20, you’ll often find it for cheaper (we recently bought a few bottles at $17.90 a pop). Big House is hands-down one of our favorite bourbons, and it stands up particularly well in a Manhattan because of its spicy flavor. It’s not available in all markets, so be sure to snag a few bottles if you see it.

For a Slightly Smoky Manhattan: Elijah Craig Small Batch ($28)

We love using this rich bourbon in cocktails because its spicy, almost smoky flavor holds up in sweeter drinks. But it’s also excellent in a dry, booze-forward Manhattan. It adds pleasant notes of baking spices and oak to the classic standby.

For an Extra Strong Manhattan: Four Roses Single Barrel ($46)

This 100 proof, high rye bourbon perfectly complements sweet vermouth, especially if you usually take your Manhattans with rye. It’s unbelievably smooth, with lots of ripe cherries and plums on the palate. The long finish gives you a reason to savor the classic cocktail slowly and surely.