Whiskey’s answer to the Martini, the Manhattan is a magnificent mix of three ingredients: rye whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters. Though it’s just as alluring and timelessly elegant as 007’s drink of choice, the Manhattan has an edge that the Martini lacks. All credit goes to the spicy rye.
Over the past decade or so it’s become fashionable to order a Manhattan with bourbon instead of rye, but we think that trend is bunk—especially with so many wonderful rye whiskies on the market. Here are five of the best American ryes to mix into your Manhattan.
Don’t confuse this Kentucky-made rye’s low price tag with cheapness. Easily one of the best values for its price, Old Overholt has been a solid choice in whiskey cocktails since its creation in the mid-19th century. It’s strong spicy aroma and grain-flecked peppery flavor beautifully complement the sweet vermouth in a Manhattan. While you could certainly spend your money on a more expensive rye, you won’t go wrong with this one.
This particular bottling isn’t as widely available as some of the others on this list, so if you do happen to see it in a liquor store, be sure to take it home with you—especially if you love a spicy Manhattan. With a mashbill of 95 percent rye grain and two years spent aging in new, charred oak barrels, this whiskey can certainly hold its own in a cocktail. Its strong baking spice flavors stand out particularly well in a Manhattan.
Though this whiskey is most often associated with its namesake cocktail, the Sazerac, its mixability goes far beyond that traditional New Orleans recipe. Chock full of baking spice, vanilla and citrus flavors, this rye makes for a silky Manhattan that can warm any whiskey lover’s soul.
Even if you load your Manhattan full of sweet vermouth, this 50 percent ABV rye whiskey won’t let you forget it’s there. It has a powerful pepperiness underneath caramel notes that will play nicely in any cocktail—and even on its own—without an overpowering bite.
This single-barrel rye whiskey is one of the boldest on the list. With plenty of vanilla, caramel and dried cherry notes, this bottling benefits from the softening touch of sweet vermouth in a Manhattan. It doesn’t, however, get smothered, thanks to its slightly high ABV at 42.4 percent.