The Unexpected Ingredient That Will Majorly Upgrade Your Manhattan

A Manhattan is definitely one of those classic cocktails you should know how to make. The elegant beverage first appeared in 19th-century New York City, as the name implies (via Liquor). The timeless drink is simply made by combing two parts rye whiskey, one part sweet vermouth, and a couple dashes of bitters over ice in a mixing glass. A Manhattan is always stirred, never shaken, and typically served up (without ice) in a coupe glass. It is traditionally garnished with a brandied cherry or a swath of citrus, or sometimes both to create a simple and elegant cocktail.

A classic Manhattan cocktail recipe contains just a few ingredients and is very easy to make. Because of this, simply substituting a single ingredient or modifying the ratios can create an interesting variation on a classic. According to Cocktails and Bars, splitting the vermouths between sweet and dry creates a perfect Manhattan. Making a Manhattan that is instead two parts sweet vermouth and one part whiskey yields a "reverse Manhattan," for example. Bourbon can be used if preferred, but because the cocktail has so few ingredients, it is especially important for the spirit to be of high quality.

Maple syrup makes for an exciting variation on the classic Manhattan

A touch of sweetness is key to a great Manhattan, and usually that sweetness comes from a sweet vermouth, often called a red vermouth, such as Carpano Antica or Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, according to The Whiskey Wash. However, it's totally possible to defy tradition and sub out some of that vermouth with another sweet ingredient: maple syrup.

The Revolving Door, a restaurant in Newport, Rhode Island, has served a Manhattan with this variation, according to The Beverage Journal. Called a Malt Whitman, the cocktail skips the vermouth entirely and instead uses bourbon, cherry liqueur, walnut bitters, and, of course, maple syrup. They may be onto something.

Maple syrup is both very flavorful and incredibly aromatic, notes Maple Syrup World. Flavors can range from notes of golden sugar to caramel to dark roast coffee, depending on if the syrup is light, medium, or dark. It can have notes of vanilla, herbal qualities, a pleasant woodiness, nutty characteristics, and even fruity flavors. By introducing maple syrup as an ingredient in a Manhattan, you can add complexity and sweetness exactly to your liking.