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Old Fashioned vs Manhattan: What's the Difference?

by Jason Lowder August 15, 2023 4 min read

Old Fashioned vs Manhattan: What's the Difference?

The Old Fashioned and Manhattan are two classic whiskey cocktails that have been enjoyed for over a century. Both drinks are simple to make and feature a base of whiskey, but they have distinct differences in their ingredients and flavor profiles. In this guide, we'll explore the differences between these two iconic cocktails and answer some common questions about them.

What is an Old Fashioned?

An Old Fashioned is a classic cocktail that dates back to the early 19th century. It is known for its simplicity and its ability to showcase the flavors of the whiskey used in its preparation. The Old Fashioned is made with a few basic ingredients: whiskey, sugar, water, and bitters. It is typically garnished with a citrus peel, usually orange or lemon.

What is a Manhattan?

A Manhattan is a classic cocktail that originated in the late 19th century, believed to have been first created at the Manhattan Club in New York City. It is a sophisticated and elegant drink that combines the flavors of whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. The Manhattan is known for its rich and complex flavor profile, which is enhanced by the addition of sweet vermouth.

What Are the Main Differences Between a Manhattan and Old Fashioned?

The main difference between the two cocktails lies in the sweetener and the garnish. The Old Fashioned uses a sugar cube or granulated sugar as a sweetener, which is muddled with bitters and a splash of water.

The Manhattan, on the other hand, uses sweet vermouth as a sweetener, which adds a rich and complex flavor to the drink. The garnishes also differ, with the Old Fashioned being garnished with a citrus peel, usually orange or lemon, while the Manhattan is garnished with a maraschino cherry.

What Are the Similarities?

Both cocktails are made with a base of whiskey, and both feature the use of bitters, which add depth and complexity to the drinks. The Old Fashioned typically uses bourbon as the base spirit, while the Manhattan is more commonly made with rye whiskey.

However, both drinks can be made with either bourbon or rye, depending on personal preference. The choice of whiskey can influence the flavor profile of the drink, with bourbon being sweeter and smoother, and rye being spicier and more robust. The good news is both of these cocktails have favorable profiles for incorporating smoke which you can do with one of our cocktail smokers.

Are They Served in the Same Way?

The way the cocktails are served also differs. The Old Fashioned is typically served in a rocks glass, over ice, and is often considered a sipping drink. The Manhattan is usually served in a cocktail glass, also known as a martini glass, and is served without ice. The choice of glassware can influence the drinking experience, with the rocks glass being more casual and the cocktail glass being more elegant.

Which One is Best Depends…

When it comes to choosing between the two cocktails, it often comes down to personal preference. The Old Fashioned is a simpler, more whiskey-forward drink, and is a great choice for those who enjoy the taste of whiskey.

The Manhattan, with its addition of sweet vermouth, has a more complex flavor profile, and may be preferred by those who enjoy a more sophisticated drink. Both cocktails are versatile and can be enjoyed in a variety of settings, from casual gatherings to formal events.

FAQs

Q: Can I use a different type of bitters in an Old Fashioned or Manhattan?

A: Yes, you can experiment with different types of bitters to create unique flavor profiles. Some popular options include orange bitters, cherry bitters, and chocolate bitters.

Q: Can I use Scotch whiskey in a Manhattan or Old Fashioned?

A: While bourbon and rye are the traditional choices for these cocktails, you can use Scotch whiskey if you prefer. However, Scotch has a distinct flavor profile that may alter the taste of the drink.

Q: What type of glass should I use for an Old Fashioned?

A: The Old Fashioned is typically served in a rocks glass, while the Manhattan is served in a cocktail glass (also known as a martini glass). Learn more about cocktail glassware types.

Q: Can I make these cocktails in advance?

A: Yes, you can make these cocktails in advance and store them in the refrigerator. However, it's best to add the garnish just before serving.

Q: Can I make a non-alcoholic version of these cocktails?

A: Yes, you can make non-alcoholic versions of these cocktails by substituting the whiskey with a non-alcoholic alternative, such as a whiskey-flavored syrup or a non-alcoholic spirit.

In the end, the Old Fashioned and Manhattan are both classic whiskey cocktails that have their own unique characteristics. Whether you prefer the simplicity of the Old Fashioned or the complexity of the Manhattan, both drinks are sure to please whiskey enthusiasts and cocktail aficionados alike.



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