What is the difference between a perfect Manhattan and a regular Manhattan?

Answered by Michael Wilson

The main difference between a perfect Manhattan and a regular Manhattan lies in the type of vermouth used. While a regular Manhattan typically uses sweet vermouth, a perfect Manhattan splits the vermouth into equal parts sweet vermouth and dry vermouth. This subtle variation adds a unique twist to the classic cocktail.

The choice of vermouth can greatly affect the flavor profile of a Manhattan. Sweet vermouth, also known as red vermouth, is made with a base of red wine, herbs, and spices. It imparts a rich, slightly sweet taste to the cocktail. On the other hand, dry vermouth, also called white vermouth, is made with white wine and has a more herbal and less sweet character.

By using equal parts sweet and dry vermouth, a perfect Manhattan achieves a more balanced and layered taste. The sweetness of the sweet vermouth is tempered by the dryness of the dry vermouth, resulting in a smoother and more complex drink. This variation is particularly appealing to those who prefer a drier, less sweet cocktail.

Another aspect to consider is the choice of whiskey. While a traditional Manhattan is typically made with rye whiskey, both bourbon and rye can be used in a perfect Manhattan as well. Bourbon tends to be sweeter and smoother, adding a rich and mellow flavor to the cocktail. Rye whiskey, on the other hand, is spicier and drier, which can provide a more assertive and robust taste.

The use of bitters is a common denominator in both regular and perfect Manhattans. Bitters, typically Angostura or aromatic bitters, are aromatic flavorings made from a blend of herbs, barks, and spices. They add depth and complexity to the cocktail, balancing out the sweetness and enhancing the overall flavor profile.

To make a perfect Manhattan, you would typically combine 2 ounces of whiskey (bourbon or rye), 1/2 ounce of sweet vermouth, and 1/2 ounce of dry vermouth. You would then add a few dashes of bitters and stir the mixture with ice until well chilled. Finally, strain the cocktail into a chilled glass and garnish with a cherry or twist of citrus peel.

In terms of personal experience, I have had the pleasure of enjoying both regular and perfect Manhattans on various occasions. I find that the perfect Manhattan offers a more nuanced and balanced flavor compared to the regular version. The combination of sweet and dry vermouths creates a delightful interplay of sweetness and herbaceousness, elevating the overall drinking experience.

A perfect Manhattan differs from a regular Manhattan by using equal parts sweet and dry vermouths instead of solely sweet vermouth. This variation adds complexity and balance to the cocktail, creating a more layered and nuanced flavor profile. Whether you prefer the classic sweetness of a regular Manhattan or the drier elegance of a perfect Manhattan, both versions offer a delightful and sophisticated drinking experience.