Sure, you can get a good cocktail lots of places these days, but why try for a Manhattan anywhere outside the island it was named for? Everyone knows a good Manhattan needs a high-quality whiskey, but the vermouth is just as important. Once an overlooked ingredient, vermouth has been gaining in notoriety recently, perhaps borrowing from the Spaniards’ veneration of the wine. The final ingredient — bitters — is even more in vogue among the “artisanal mixologists” of the downtown scene. Here’s a look at some of the best places to snag this high-brow cocktail, in both its classic form and in exciting new variations.
Hotel 48LEX Cocktail Bar 517 Lexington Avenue
You don’t have to look far for one of the best Manhattans in the city when staying at 48LEX. Exclusive to hotel guests, our cocktail bar offers curated libations designed by renowned mixologist Johnny Swet, as well as a list of distinctive wines and spirits selected by sommelier Justin Timsit. Stop by for our take on the Perfect Manhattan – a classic cocktail mixed with George Dickel Rye, a dash of both Carpano Antica Vermouth and Carpano Dry Vermouth, and topped off with Angostura.
Amor Y Amargo 443 E 6th St
This low-lit, upscale East Village bar calls itself a “bitters tasting room,” so expect an alarming array of choices. If you’ve got the nerve to create your own Manhattan from their expansive collection of spirits, bitters, and vermouth, they’ll let you give them direction. But if you want to hand this one over to the pros, ask for the “dealer’s choice,” and the bartender will make you a Manhattan you’ll never forget. Photo by @kalindahao.
Employees Only 510 Hudson St
This Prohibition-era bar has all the art deco taste of New York’s best speakeasies without making you play any phony games to find it. Just walk on into this excellent restaurant-cum-bar and order yourself a cocktail your grandfather would recognize. Employees Only lists The Manhattan first on its menu, indicating the cocktail’s preeminence at the bar. For a special kick, the bar adds Grand Marnier, because even the old classics could use some updates. Photo by @employeesonlyny.
On the Rocks 696 10th Ave
There’s a time and a place for innovative cocktails with handcrafted bitters and bespoke ice cubes—but On the Rocks isn’t it. As its name suggests, this is a whiskey bar (straight up), with a huge selection of every whiskey variant you could hope for. It’s off the tourist’s radar in a still-edgy part of Hell’s Kitchen, but makes a mean Manhattan. You can select some special bitters to mix in if you want, or just choose your favorite rye and relax in this unpretentious but meticulous bar. Photo by @singlemaltdaily.