Black Manhattan

By Timo Torner / Last updated on March 20, 2023

The Black Manhattan is a simple and aromatic riff on the traditional Manhattan cocktail. It adds a bitter touch to the boozy classic.
Black Manhattan cocktail with Maraschino cherry

When bartender Todd Smith invented the Black Manhattan variation in 2005, he adjusted the old recipe just by one single thing: he used Amaro Averna instead of Sweet Vermouth. A simple twist on the original Manhattan - but an effective one. The addition of Amaro makes the cocktail more complex with a lot more herbal bitterness.

The resulting Black Manhattan is rich in taste, slightly more boozy, and a bit heavier than the original recipe, but also more flavorful. The notes of licorice, juniper, sage, and rosemary make the cocktail a special. -A delight for every Manhattan lover.

What's in a Black Manhattan?

The original Manhattan recipe from the 19th century featured only three ingredients: Rye Whiskey, Sweet Vermouth, and Angostura bitters.

And the variant by Todd Smith not only swaps in Amaro Averna for Sweet Vermouth. It also adds a second type of cocktail bitters. Just a dash of orange bitters gives the drink a beautiful fruity touch.

So here's the list of ingredients for a Black Manhattan cocktail, including the classy garnish:

  • Rye Whiskey
  • Amaro Averna
  • Angostura bitters
  • Orange cocktail bitters
  • Maraschino cherry for garnish

Amaro Averna

Black Manhattan Cocktail with Maraschino cherries on pick

The Amaro category is a collection of bittersweet liqueurs from Italy. These liqueurs are infused with countless herbs, fruit peels, rinds, and roots, which create a distinct herbal taste.

Amaro Averna is a sweet, spicy, and herbal representative with flavors of sage, juniper, licorice and a hint of chocolate. It is a lot more bitter than Vermouth (a fortified wine) but a lot less bitter notes than Campari, for example.

If you don't have Averna at home and can't find it in a store, you can replace it with a similar Amaro. Ramazzotti and Amaro Meletti are great substitutes for Amaro Averna. But if you have neither, there are some more options. Here you can find the best substitutes for Averna.

Also, a proper Black Manhattan cocktail is garnished with a cherry skewered on a cocktail pick. Don't use those bright red and cheap cocktail cherries, use genuine Maraschino cherry instead.

These deep dark red cherries are traditionally produced by Luxardo and add a nice touch to any classy drink. -And Maraschino cherries are not only about looks. They also have a very pleasant taste.

The cocktail bitters in this drink

The traditional recipe uses regular Angostura aromatic bitters to add depth to the cocktail. In the Black Manhattan variation, Amaro Averna adds another complex layer of flavor which is rounded out beautifully with the help of orange cocktail bitters.

And for orange cocktail bitters, there are some superb choices available. I would recommend either using Angostura orange bitters or Regans orange bitters No.6. Both are of superior quality and bring a delicate fruity orange flavor to the drink.

Who invented the Black Manhattan?

As I mentioned, the Black Manhattan was invented by Todd Smith back in 2005. He created this flavorful twist on the original Manhattan while working at Bourbon & Branch in San Francisco.

It didn't take long for the richer and bittersweet variation to gain fans all around the globe. The distinct herbal notes and the slight spiciness of Smith's version made the cocktail an instant modern classic.

Black Manhattan cocktail with Maraschino cherry

Black Manhattan

A boozy riff on the original Manhattan cocktail, swapping Amaro Averna for Sweet Vermouth.
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: amaro, angostura, Averna, rye
Servings: 1
Calories: 234kcal
Cost: $4.80


  • 1 Jigger
  • 1 Mixing glass
  • 1 Bar spoon
  • 1 Hawthorne Strainer


  • 2 oz Rye Whiskey
  • 1 oz Amaro Averna
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • 1 dash Orange cocktail bitters
  • 1-2 Maraschino cherry


  • Add all ingredients into a mixing glass with plenty of ice.
    2 oz Rye Whiskey, 1 oz Amaro Averna, 1 dash Angostura bitters, 1 dash Orange cocktail bitters
  • Stir with a bar spoon until the contents are well-chilled.
  • Grab a strainer and strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a Maraschino Cherry.
    1-2 Maraschino cherry


Serving: 3.25ozCalories: 234kcalCarbohydrates: 6.88gPotassium: 1mgSugar: 6.88g
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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