Black Manhattan Recipe

The Black Manhattan Recipe is a variation of the traditional Manhattan. So let’s start by looking at the history of the Manhattan Cocktail first.

Black Manhattan Cocktail

Origin of the Manhattan Cocktail

The origins of the Manhattan Cocktail are a little bit of a mystery. There’s a great story about Winston Churchill’s mother hosting a party for a presidential candidate in the 1870ies at the Manhattan Club in New York City. And of course she wanted signature cocktail to be served to the guests. This drink, made with Whiskey, Vermouth and Bitters was a big hit. After that, people started asking for the drink by the name of the club where the party was held, The Manhattan Cocktail.

This story can’t be confirmed but I think it’s a great origin so lets go with it. And here’s the recipe for a Manhattan.

Black Manhattan Cocktail

Manhattan Cocktail


  • 2 oz Whisky
  • 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
  • 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters


  • Stir ingredients over ice for about 30 seconds to chill.
  • Garnish with a Cherry

Which Whisky to use in a Manhattan

The Whisky that was originally used was Rye but it can also be made with Bourbon or Canadian Whisky. During Prohibition, Canadian Whisky was easier to get, so Manhattans were often made with it.

Generally Manhattans made with Rye are a little more spicy while the bourbon version is considered more smooth and rounded. A good tasting inexpensive bourbon you might want to try is Bulleit.

But today I want to talk about a variation on the traditional Manhattan cocktail called the Black Manhattan.

Created by bartender Todd Smith when he worked at San Francisco’s Bourbon & Branch.

The Black Manhattan recipe is made with Whisky, Averna and Bitters. So it replaces the sweet vermouth with Averna.

What is Averna?

Averna is a dark brown digestif, which was served on the rocks or straight but before and after meals in Italy. It’s made with herbs, roots and citrus rinds but the exact ingredients are a secret that have been handed down generation to generation since 1868. Averna is thick and has a caramel sweet flavor.

Black Manhattan Cocktail Recipe


  • 2 oz Whiskey
  • 1 oz Averna
  • 1 dash Orange Bitters
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters


  • Stir ingredients over ice for about 30 seconds to chill.
  • Garnish with Cherry
  • Orange twist optional and not traditional but it should be

Should a Manhattan be shaken or stirred

When following this Black Manhattan Recipe, or even a regular Manhattan Recipe, you should stir it. When you put a strong spirit like rye or bourbon in a cocktail shaker you wind up adding air and water which can change the flavor of the contents. Put the contents in a bar glass with ice and stir with a bar spoon for at least 30 seconds.

On the Rocks or Straight Up?

Small ice cubes melt quicker than large ones. To prevent small ice cubes from diluting your drink and changing it’s flavor, you can use large ice cubes. The trend in serving cocktails now is to use one large ice cube or even use an ice sphere. There’s less surface area so it melts slower and it really looks cool. There’s even a trend to use a clear see through ice cube.

I like these ice spheres. You can get the ice sphere makers for cheap and they’re good to have in your freezer for when you want a drink.

Other Manhattan Cocktail Variations

If you’re having a hard time finding Averna to make this Black Manhattan Recipe, don’t worry I’ve listed a few other Manhattan cocktail variations to try in my old post about the regular Manhattan Cocktail.