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Old Fashioned v. Manhattan

November 11, 2022

Whiskey lovers know – there are no cocktails as classic as the Manhattan and Old Fashioned. But, if you’re new to the spirit, it may be confusing what the difference is between the two. And believe us, the difference is distinct. Though both are incredibly delicious, they are very different when it comes to taste and presentation.

Old Fashioned

For many, the Old Fashioned is the cocktail to end all cocktails. The longstanding rumor in the spirits industry is that it got its name from people ordering a cocktail the “old-fashioned way.” But, the very first true Old Fashioned was created in Louisville, Kentucky at a private social club called The Pendennis in the 1880’s. James E. Pepper, bartender and esteemed bourbon aristocrat, invented the drink and then took it to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel bar in New York City. Thus, a star was born.

How to make it:
To make a classic Old Fashioned, start by muddling a sugar cube with a few dashes of Angostura bitters and a splash of water in the bottom of a rocks glass. Then you add a large ice cube and your choice of whiskey – traditionally, most love a good bourbon, we would suggest our Anita’s Choice. Stirred, never shaken. Garnish with an orange peel and serve. It’s simple and to the point, and is a classic for a reason.

 

Manhattan

Made with just three ingredients at around the same time as the Old Fashioned, a Manhattan is beloved by many, as well. Though its popularity has seen several peaks and valleys since it was created, we think it will be a mainstay until the end of time. One interesting fact about this cocktail is how it has stayed true to its tasting origin since its inception. The drink that was created in the 1880’s is the same drink you’ll taste today.

How to make it:
To make a classic Manhattan, add two parts rye whiskey (Palmer’s Stretch is perfect) to one part sweet vermouth and a couple dashes of Angostura bitters to a mixing glass. Stir with ice until the mixture is chilly. Then, strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a brandied cherry.

How They Are Similar
Both classic cocktails are whiskey-forward, which is most likely the reason they’ve remained in popularity for so long. They each call for Angostura bitters, as well. This specific type of bitters, used abundantly throughout the spirits industry, provide a warm spice flavor that perfectly accents the bourbon and rye. Both happen to be stirred, not shaken. And lastly, each cocktail is elegant and respectable, ordered by distinguished individuals often as nightcaps.

How They Are Different
While the Old Fashioned calls for a classic sugar cube, the Manhattan opts for sweet vermouth, a fortified wine. The vermouth adds a more complex flavor, offering earthy and notes of spice, while the sugar is more straightforwardly sweet. Additionally, the Old Fashioned is traditionally made with bourbon, Manhattan with rye. Last but not least, they look different when presented. While an Old Fashioned is served in a rocks glass over an ice cube, a Manhattan is served chilled, but neat, in a coupe glass. The Old Fashioned is then garnished with an orange peel, while the Manhattan with a brandied cherry.

Different, yes – but the same too. The Old Fashioned and Manhattan are both classically distinguished cocktails for whiskey lovers to savor and enjoy.

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