• Home
  • Articles
  • King Of Cocktails: Is It The Martini Or The Manhattan?

King Of Cocktails: Is It The Martini Or The Manhattan?

By: Neelanjana Mondal

manhattan vs martini

The Martini and the Manhattan were created around the same time. But unlike the Manhattan, the Martini did not have a concrete form until the late 1800s. That being said, it is believed that Manhattan is the parent of Martinez, the earlier form of the famous Martini. With time the Martini underwent different influences complicating its lineage even further. 

manhattan cocktail

The Martini Cocktail

Martini cocktail has cemented its reputation as one of the most popular go-to cocktails today. In fact, the silver screen has immortalised this drink from popular women-centric movies to the badass heroes in action films. The classic martini cocktail heavily uses gin and vermouth, always without ice and one or more additives to sweeten or up the booze. It’s traditionally served with olives skewered by a toothpick or a twisty lemon peel. 

It’s hard to say who mixed the world’s first martini cocktail and as undocumented cases go, it could be as early as the 1950s during the California gold rush in the US. It is rumoured to have popped up in multiple places all at once in the classic combination of the two liquors, gin and vermouth and a classic garnish to it. 

vesper martini

One can say it’s the alien in its own country that is truly cosmopolitan after its years of schooling in different behaviours of the world. But somehow it stays true to its root and is served in the same martini glass with the olives or lemon peel. It wasn’t until 1888, when OH Byron’s revised second edition of the Bartender Manual, included a page that had a recipe for a Martini cocktail. This recipe called for gin, vermouth, bitters, orange curacao, gum and a lemon twist. 

Classic (Stirred, Not Shaken) Martini Recipe


60 ml dry gin

15 ml dry vermouth

1 dash of orange bitters

1 lemon twist for garnish


In a mixing glass add the gin, vermouth and orange bitters.

Mix until it is cold and condensation forms on the glass. 

Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with lemon peel on the edge. 

classic manhattan cocktail

The Manhattan

With one liquor in common with the martini i.e., vermouth, although a different kind, the Manhattan is also quintessentially American like the Martini. Grandfather Manhattan has a trio of spirits – the vermouth, brandy and bitters, often garnished with a maraschino cherry. This cocktail is one of the pioneers of the aromatic cocktails group. Between birthing the martini, it also birthed the Martinez, the predecessor of the Martini. 

While the origin is still unclear, it did originate in Manhattan in the late 1800s. Most credit its origin to the Manhattan Club in New York City, now, as to who was responsible for its invention, is where the conflict starts. It is said, that the drink was served to either Dr. Iain Marshall or to Lady Randolph Churchill, Winston Churchill’s mother. Another theory places the cocktail at another bar off Broadway, with a bartender called Black having invented it. No matter the origin, the Manhattan cocktail has remained the same throughout history and is still served the same way even today. This is unlike the Martini which has been adjusting its recipe since its inception. You can walk into a bar and order a Manhattan without much thought, but for the Martini, you will need to get down to the specifics. 

manhattan cocktail

Classic Manhattan Recipe


60 ml rye whiskey

30 ml sweet vermouth  

2 dashes of aromatic bitters

1 Maraschino cherry for garnish


In a mixing glass, again, add all the liquids – whisky, vermouth and aromatic bitters – until the glass turns chilled.

Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with the cherry. 

vesper martini

The Final Verdict

Take it from us, it is hard to play favourites with these two retro cocktails, one that has stayed true to its vintage roots and the other having gotten a cosmopolitan upgrade. It’s all a matter of preference. But if we were to pick sides, the Manhattan reigns supreme being the cocktail that was behind the origin of the Martini. Everyone has roots and the Martini’s grandfather Manhattan though not as talked about or popularised on the silver screen and pop culture,  quietly exists waiting for a tete-a-tete with his grandson, the Martini. 

This content is not available in your location