When it comes to classic cocktails, the Manhattan is about as good as they come. A relatively simple drink, the Manhattan calls to mind elegant parties, upscale bars, and a sense of timelessness as if it's untethered from the fabric of history.
Thanks to its traditional quality, the Manhattan is an excellent all-around beverage that works for parties, dates, gatherings, and any other occasion where a cocktail is warranted. Even better, thanks to Seir Hill's Mashville whiskey-alternative, you can enjoy your drink while consuming less alcohol.
Because the Manhattan uses multiple types of alcohol, we're going to show you how to make a low-alcohol version. Mashville works as the base of this cocktail, but you can also source other non-alcoholic ingredients to make a virgin version if you like. Here's everything you need to know about making a low-alcohol Manhattan.
A Brief History of the Manhattan Cocktail
Like all classic cocktails, the story of the Manhattan begins in the late 1800s, although the exact story is lost to history. We know that the first official mention of a Manhattan cocktail comes from the Sunday Morning Herald in Olean, New York, in 1882. The newspaper published a piece that outlined the basic ingredients of whiskey, vermouth, and bitters and called it a Manhattan. However, strangely enough, the paper also called the beverage a Turf Club and a Jockey Club cocktail.
In 1884, the recipe was mentioned in the Modern Bartender's Guide by O.H. Byron, although there were two variations mentioned in the same passage. The first version used French vermouth and a few dashes of gum syrup. The second variation used Italian vermouth and curacao. These days, the origin of the vermouth doesn't matter much, and most bartenders don't add any syrup or sweetener. But back in the day, adding sugar to cocktails was haute couture, so it makes sense for the OG Manhattan to be a bit sweeter.
One of the legends surrounding this drink's heritage is that a doctor named Ian Marshall invented the drink during a party for Lady Randolph Churchill, mother of the famous Winston. In this story, the name Manhattan stemmed from the fact that the party was hosted at the Manhattan Club. Unfortunately, it seems Lady Churchill was pregnant at the time when the cocktail was supposedly invented, so the story is likely a work of fiction.
Another legend from a 1923 bartender's book states the origins of the Manhattan from a mysterious man named Black who lived on Broadway street. But this story is technically third-hand, as the author of the book states he heard it from a bartender at Hoffman House who made the claim about Mr. Black.
Regardless of its true birthright, there's no denying the Manhattan is a staple of traditional cocktails and has been enjoyed for almost 150 years. Whether you're sipping on the real deal or one with non-alcoholic whiskey, you can feel the weight of history on your lips.
Why Drink a Low-Alcohol Manhattan?
These days, going alcohol-free is much more widespread as a lifestyle choice, particularly around the beginning of the year when new resolutions are on everyone's mind. Even if you didn't resolve to limit or give up alcohol this year, drinking a low-alcohol version is beneficial for a few reasons, like:
- Better Health - Alcohol can slowly destroy your liver and circulatory system, so the less you drink, the less stress you're putting on your body.
- More Versatile - You can drink a non-alcoholic Manhattan anytime and anywhere because you don't have to worry about getting too tipsy.
- Fewer Calories - Whiskey has some sugar in it, so each ounce of it contains about 70 calories. Mashville from Seir Hill is lighter, so you can drink without adding extra weight around the waist.
What You'll Need to Make a Low-Alcohol Manhattan Drink
As far as equipment, you'll need a cocktail shaker, a martini glass, and maybe a toothpick, depending on your garnish. A traditional Manhattan comes with a cherry (sometimes brandy-soaked), but you can swap it out for a lemon twist or nothing at all.
The ingredients for a low-alcohol Manhattan are also simple:
- 2 oz Mashville Whiskey Alternative
- 1 oz Sweet Vermouth (not Dry)
- 2-3 Dashes Angostura Bitters
- Cherry for a Garnish
How to Make a Low-Alcohol Manhattan
All you have to do is mix the liquid ingredients into your cocktail shaker with ice. You can either use a stirrer stick or shake it like you're James Bond. Make sure the mixture gets chilled before straining it into your martini glass. If you don't have one of these types of glasses, a Manhattan will also work in a tumbler or rocks glass, too.
Finally, add the cherry (or alternative garnish) and enjoy! The great thing about this recipe is that you can double or triple the ingredients so you can mix multiple servings at once. This option is perfect for when you're at a party or hanging out with friends so that everyone gets a taste.
Alternatives to the Low-Alcohol Manhattan Recipe
While a traditional low-alcohol Manhattan tastes amazing, there are tons of variations you can try as well. Here are some of our favorites:
- Black Manhattan - Instead of using sweet vermouth, you can pour some Italian Amaro, which gives the beverage a distinct black color. The flavor profile is also a little sweeter and bolder.
- Revolver - You'll want to pull the trigger on this variation, which uses coffee liqueur and orange bitters instead of vermouth and Angostura. The combination is a bit sweet and tangy, which is perfect for pairing with Mashville.
- Reverse Manhattan - If you've never tried sweet vermouth by itself before, the flavor is remarkably distinct and smooth. So, a reverse Manhattan uses two ounces of vermouth to one ounce of whiskey. A unique and remarkably simple spin on the classic.
If you're interested in making other low-alcohol beverages, you can check out our Mashville mocktail page. Also, Seir Hill makes high-quality non-alcoholic rum and Tequila, so feel free to see what else we have in store.