Rosemary Miller and I have been deconstructing our favorite cocktail, the Manhattan, tearing it down to its base parts and studying how each part interacts with the other on the quest for the perfect Manhattan cocktail.

Our last installment generated a lot of conversation about whether we should be shaking or stirring our Manhattans. Many of you have strong feelings that a Manhattan should never be shaken. We started off with shaking because that’s how I have always made them at home and that’s the way the first known recorded Manhattan recipe says to do it. We will be exploring shaken versus stirred Manhattans in an upcoming post, so stay tuned.

In our last installment we both decided we liked the Michter’s Barrel Strength Rye the best, so that’s what we will be using as our base from here on out. We’re still using the same base recipe: large side of the jigger of rye, small side of vermouth, two dashes bitters, shake with ice and strain then add a cherry. This time we are focusing on vermouths.

We started off by trying 8 different sweet vermouths and kicked one out because neither of us had anything good to say about it. Here are the notes on the other 7:

  1. Martini & Rossi (Italian) – smells like rosemary and spice. Tastes light and citrusy. There’s a light bitterness on the finish.
  2. Dolin (French) – Very dark in color. Smells floral. Tastes sweet with faint herbal notes. Would likely be like just adding sugar to whiskey.
  3. Barolo Chinato Cocchi (Italian) – dark red. Smells herbal. Tastes sweet and bitter like orange peel.
  4. Antica (Italian) – heavy licorice smell. Tastes like dark chocolate and licorice.
  5. Berto (Italian) – Vanilla and lemongrass on the nose. Tastes light and sweet with faint bitterness and pronounced lemongrass.
  6. Noily Prat (French) – Smells like tomatoes and Worcestershire sauce. Tastes like sweet Worcestershire sauce.
  7. Maurin (French) – Smells strongly of lemongrass. Tastes like lemongrass and citrus, not very sweet.

Because our top two favorites out of this lineup were Italian (Martini and Barolo) we decided to break the vermouth portion of the study up further. We tried all four Italian vermouths this time, we will do French vermouths next time, and then we will narrow down our favorite from the top two of each.

Martini & Rossi

Sweet but not overly so. Very balanced with a nice amount of spice. Light and refreshing herbal with a good mouth feel.

Barolo Chinato Cocchi

Strong but not overwhelming spice. Sweet but balanced with a hint of citrus.


Great first impression – chocolate and licorice – but then the licorice takes over and become overwhelming.


A very nice intro but then the spice becomes overwhelming. Pronounced lemongrass notes.

The Conclusion

After all the feedback we’ve received about our choice of vermouth early on, the old standard Martini & Rossi is sure hanging in there. Rosemary and I both liked the Martini & Rossi and the Barolo Chinato Cocchi the best out of these four. Rosemary slightly preferred the Barolo and I liked them both equally, so these are the two that will advance to the final round after we taste the French vermouths in the next round.

Photos Courtesy of Maggie Kimberl

Rosemary Miller also contributed to this story.