Two classic whiskey cocktails that are surprisingly similar, but deliciously different.
Manhattan's and Old Fashineds are absolute classics.
They're in bars everywhere, can easily be made and home, and are great to experiment with as an introduction to making homemade drinks. It's not hard to see why they've become legends.
But what makes them different?
Old Fashioned vs. the Manhattan
Both the Manhattan and Old Fashioned are made with a base of bourbon or rye whiskey with a few dashes of bitters. The difference is that a Manhattan is made with Sweet Vermouth, and an Old Fashioned is made with simple syrup (or sugar) to sweeten the drink.
Whiskey + sweet vermouth = Manhattan
Whiskey + simple syrup or sugar = an Old Fashioned
How are the recipes different?
Despite having similar ingredients the ratios are quite different.
Sweet Vermouth is (as the name suggests) sweet, however, it doesn't have the same sweetening power that pure sugar or simple syrup does. This means you need more vermouth to get a pleasant subtle sweetness in a Manhattan cocktail.
Each recipe starts with around 2 ounces of bourbon or rye whiskey and a few dashes of bitters. An Old fashioned is then sweetened by a 1/4 ounce or less of simple syrup (or 1/2 tsp of sugar), whereas a Manhattan calls for an ounce of Sweet Vermouth.
What do they taste like?
You might actually be surprised by the difference.
They have similar mellow sweetness but a Manhattan has more complexity that comes from the Sweet Vermouth. Dark red fruit, subtle herbal hints and sometimes even vanilla or cola like flavors can be contributed by the vermouth depending on which one you choose.
In an Old Fashioned you taste the whiskey more.
The pure sugar sweetness of simple syrup does not add much flavor so the main spirit can really shine making it an awesome introduction if you want to start sipping whiskey on the rocks.
Adjusting the recipes
Experimenting with different whiskeys, bitters, sweeteners, and citrus are great ways really mix up these cocktails.
Both drinks are typically garnished with a citrus twist that is squeezed over the drink before serving to give a delicious smell with every sip you take.
Manhattans often get an orange twist while Old Fashioneds get lemon, orange, or sometimes both.
As for the whiskey, choosing a rye for cocktails tends to yield something with a refreshingly spicy bite, and bourbon will make a smoother slightly sweeter drink.