If there’s one cocktail New York City is going to take credit for, it’s the Manhattan. The history behind this strong blend of whiskey and vermouth with a dash of bitters is dusty. One version follows the cocktail back to a recipe created by Dr. Lain Marshall for a party at NYC’s Manhattan Club that was hosted by Lady Randolph Churchill, Winston’s mother, in the 1880s. A second story tells of a bartender named Black who created the drink at a bar on Broadway near Houston Street. While Manhattan, the borough, has undergone major changes, its namesake cocktail can be ordered the exact same way it was served 130 years ago. These are some of the best Manhattans in NYC.
Brandy Library, 25 N. Moore St
Marked by a warm amber glow and floor-to-ceiling library stacks of bottles, Brandy Library is where spirit intellectuals go to discuss and the rest of us go to learn. Located in Tribeca, this upscale bar and lounge boasts a staff with encyclopedia-like knowledge of one of the finest, deepest drink menus in the city. Here, you’ll find the Manhattan made with bourbon and sweet vermouth and the Perfect Manhattan made with whiskey and dry and sweet vermouth.
Employees Only, 510 Hudson St
In the wake of the speak-easy boom that hit NYC a decade ago, Employees Only stood out among its peers, and continues to be a bar that serves the finest cocktails around. Nestled in the West Village, Employees Only has a retro feel with a bit of a scene, but it’s one that you can easily settle into. And at the top of the EO classic cocktail menu is the Manhattan made with Rittenhouse rye, Italian vermouth, Grand Marnier and a dash of angostura bitters.
Bemelmans Bar, 35 E 76 St
Regarded as one of the most timeless and enchanted bars in NYC, Bemelmans Bar was named after Ludwig Bemelmans, the creator of the beloved Madeline children’s books series. Evoking another era, the space is housed in the Carlyle Hotel and showcases a 24-karat gold leaf-covered ceiling, luxurious leather banquettes, and Ludwig’s whimsical large-scale murals. Beyond the classic Manhattan, Bemelmans Bar serves its signature version, the tequila Manhattan, made with tequila, sweet vermouth, and angostura orange bitters.
Slowly Shirley, 121 W 10 St
Tucked under The Happiest Hour in the West Village, Slowly Shirley is a subterranean cocktail bar that pays homage to the glamour and style of Hollywood’s Golden Age. A low-key, throwback vibe and an expert staff make you almost forget that you’re paying $30 for the F.A.F. (Fancy as F***) Manhattan. Served in a carafe on a bed of ice by a suspender-clad bartender, this is one of the finest, smoothest Manhattans you can get. So we say treat yourself.
Death & Company, 433 E 6 St
For the past 10 years, Death & Company has remained an esteemed East Village institution thanks to its innovative approach to craft cocktails. Laid out in all dark wood and marble illuminated by glistening chandeliers, it is easily one of NYC’s most beautifully intoxicating spots to go for a drink. The menu is punctuated with signature cocktails under inventive names like Outlaw Country and Dead Language. But the bartender will honor your order of the classic Manhattan mixed to perfection.