A Brief History of the Manhattan | National Cocktail Day

March 24 is a very important holiday. It’s National Cocktail Day! This National Cocktail Day, we are celebrating by looking into the history of (and drinking) one of our favorite cocktails: the Manhattan. At Ya Mas Greek Taverna & Bar, our Greek twist on the classic cocktail is our Mykonos Midnight Manhattan, made with Tsililis Dark Cave Tsipouro brandy instead of the traditional whiskey. But before we get into our take on the Manhattan, let’s take a look at the history of this cocktail.


Mysterious Origins

Like so many classic cocktails, the true origin of the Manhattan is unknown. The most well-known story is that Dr. Iain Marshall invented it in the early 1880s at a party at the Manhattan Club in New York. As the story goes, the party was thrown by Lady Randolph Churchill—Winston Churchill’s mother. This story is almost certainly untrue, however, because the Lady in question was in England at the time, not throwing parties in New York.

A more plausible story appears in the 1923 book Valentine’s Manual of New York. That version of the story is that the Manhattan was invented by a bar owner named Black who ran a bar in Broadway.

No matter what the story is, we know it has been around since the early 1880s. The first printed record of the Manhattan was in an article in the Sunday Morning Herald from Olean, New York, in September 1882.

ya mas

Evolution of the Recipe

Over the years, the recipe for the Manhattan has undergone many changes and variations. The basic ingredients of whiskey, vermouth, and bitters remained constant, but other ingredients made occasional appearances. For example, an early version of the recipe included absinthe.

During Prohibition, Canadian whiskey became a popular choice for the Manhattan, primarily because it was more readily accessible. No one can quite pinpoint when bourbon became the whiskey of choice, but it has remained popular because of its mellow taste and hints of sweetness.

ya mas

Have a Manhattan at Ya Mas

When you come to Ya Mas to celebrate National Cocktail Day, try our Mykonos Midnight Manhattan. We put a Greek twist on the classic Manhattan; ours is made with Tsililis Dark Cave 5-Year-Old Aged Tsipouro, a Greek brandy, and Meletti Amaro, a bitter-sweet Italian liqueur. For vermouth, we’ve gone for Carpano Antica Formula. Whiskey barrel-aged bitters is our nod to tradition. To top it off, our cocktail is garnished with an Amarena cherry. We think you’ll love it. Come to Ya Mas to give the Mykonos Midnight Manhattan or one of our other signature cocktails a try!