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How to Make a Black Manhattan Cocktail

The classic rye whiskey cocktail becomes even more sophisticated with the addition of black walnut bitters and Italian amaro. Learn how to make a Black Manhattan cocktail with this straightforward tutorial! 

photo of a black manhattan in a coupe glass in a dark room

Making This Manhattan Cocktail Recipe

Strong and boozy with a slight caramel undertone, a Black Manhattan is the perfect fall or winter cocktail. 

The combination of black walnut bitters and angostura bitters makes this simple whiskey cocktail taste incredibly complex. My neighbor introduced me to using black walnut bitters in our classic Manhattans, and I haven’t looked back since! 

If you’ve never heard of a Black Manhattan before, that makes sense! It’s only been on the scene since the early 2000’s but has quickly become a staple in most American bars. 

In this post, I’ll share my go-to recipe for a Black Walnut Manhattan as well as my tips for serving and garnishing your cocktail. 

photo of a black manhattan cocktail on a bar counter

What Is a Black Manhattan?

The Black Manhattan is a variation of the classic Manhattan cocktail, which was invented in the 1880s at the New York City Manhattan Club — hence the name. The Black Manhattan was invented in 2005 in the San Francisco restaurant Bourbon & Branch. 

In a Black Walnut Manhattan, the traditional sweet vermouth of the classic cocktail is replaced with Italian Averna Amaro. Another kind of cocktail bitters (in this case, black walnut bitters) is also added to make it “black.”

This rye whiskey cocktail is definitely one you should have in your repertoire. Although it’s a fairly young cocktail, it’s already been added to the International Bartenders Association’s official cocktail list

close up photo of a black manhattan in a coupe glass

Black Manhattan vs Manhattan 

This variation of a Manhattan cocktail is very similar to the original, but with two key differences. 

To make a classic Manhattan, the ingredient ratio is two parts whiskey to one part sweet vermouth and bitters.

A Black Manhattan uses Italian amaro instead of vermouth and also adds a second type of bitters (in this recipe, black walnut bitters).

Tip: Another Manhattan variation to know is the “Perfect Manhattan,” which uses equal parts sweet and dry vermouth. 

What Does a Black Manhattan Cocktail Taste Like? 

A Black Manhattan is incredibly strong and boozy. It’s not at all sweet, but there are slight caramel undertones that shine through. 

When to Serve a Black Manhattan 

Manhattan cocktails (any kind) are most often served as an aperitif before dinner. Serve this rye whiskey cocktail with nibbles like bar nuts, olives, or a cheese plate to stimulate the appetite. 

photo of tools needed to make a black manhattan cocktail

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Tools Needed to Make a Black Walnut Manhattan 

You don’t need any special equipment to make a Black Walnut Manhattan, but having the following bar tools on hand will make preparing and presenting your cocktail easier.   

  • Jigger — For measuring out the whiskey and amaro. 
  • Cocktail stirrer — Never shake a Manhattan! This classic cocktail needs to be stirred for about 20 to 25 rotations before being served.  
  • Cocktail strainer — Needed to strain the ice from the cocktail. 
  • Cocktail mixing glass — Technically any glass will work, but I prefer a specific cocktail mixing glass for ease of use. 
  • Canelle knife — Ideal for creating orange twists to garnish your cocktail. 

Ingredients in a Black Manhattan 

I’ve gone into further detail below about the Black Manhattan ingredients you’ll need, but here’s an overview of what goes into this cocktail. 

For the complete ingredient list and detailed instructions, scroll to the bottom of this post for the FREE printable recipe card.

What is Averna Amaro?

Amaro refers to a group of Italian herbal liqueurs that are bitter and complex in flavor (Campari is a type of amaro!). 

Averna Amaro is a specific type of amaro that’s produced in Sicily. The recipe was invented by Salvatore Averna in 1868 and contains a secret blend of herbs, roots, and citrus. 

Averna Amaro is dark brown in color, with a very thick consistency and a spicy herbal flavor. 

Should You Use Rye or Bourbon in a Manhattan? 

This Black Manhattan recipe calls for rye whiskey, but some people prefer bourbon. Rye is drier and spicier, whereas bourbon is sweeter. 

You may use either so long as you choose a good quality bottle. The rye (or bourbon!) is the star ingredient of this cocktail, so you’ll want to choose a brand you like. 

What’s the Best Rye Whiskey for a Manhattan? 

Whatever rye whiskey you prefer is the best kind! If you need specific recommendations, we’ve enjoyed the following whiskey brands in the past: 

I also recommend looking for well regarded local brands near you. We’re big fans of supporting our local distilleries! 

If you’re based in Colorado like we are, local whiskey brands we like include: 

What Are the Best Bitters for a Manhattan? 

Regular Manhattan cocktails use angostura bitters, but I’ve seen people use orange bitter instead of (or in addition to!) angostura bitters. 

The recipe I’m sharing with you today uses both black walnut bitters and angostura bitters. I love the complex, rich flavor this combination of bitters produces. 

However, if you’d prefer a slightly sweet Black Manhattan, you may replace the angostura bitters with orange or cherry bitters. 

step by step photos showing how to make a black manhattan

How to Make a Black Manhattan 

The ratio for a Black Manhattan cocktail is: 2 parts rye, 1 part amaro, and bitters. Some say you can go up to 3 parts rye to 1 part amaro, but I prefer the 2:1 ratio. 

Making a Black Walnut Manhattan cocktail is straightforward: 

  1. Add the rye, amaro, angostura bitters, black walnut bitters, and ice to a cocktail mixing glass. 
  2. Stir with a bar spoon or cocktail mixer for about 20-25 rotations.
  3. Strain the cocktail into a coupe glass; discard the ice. 
  4. Garnish with luxardo cherries and orange peel.

The above is simply a quick summary of this recipe. Check out the full recipe in the free printable recipe card at the bottom of this post for all the detailed instructions.

photos showing how to garnish a black manhattan

Garnishes for a Black Manhattan 

You’ll want to garnish your Black Manhattan with a luxardo cherry on a cocktail pick as well as an orange twist. 

Luxardo cherries are NOT the same as maraschino cherries. They’re a type of cocktail cherry with a more complex, fruity flavor. Luxardo cherries are dark red in color and are preserved in a flavorful cherry syrup. 

As for the orange twist, I recommend using a canelle knife to make the cocktail garnish. The ridged edges of the canelle knife makes cutting an orange twist much easier than using a paring knife. 

To make an orange twist for garnishing your Manhattan, simply hold an orange in the palm of your hand, apply pressure with the canelle knife, and roll the orange in your palm to make the twist.

close up photo of the garnishes on a black manhattan

Is a Manhattan Cocktail Shaken or Stirred?

Some prefer their Manhattan shaken, but shaking it can turn the cocktail cloudy and ruin the presentation. 

Therefore, a Manhattan should be stirred with ice for 20-25 rotations and then strained into glass. 

Is a Manhattan Cocktail Served Over Ice? 

No, you’ll want to stir your Black Walnut Manhattan with ice and then strain it into your glass. This prevents the cocktail from being diluted as the ice melts. 

If desired, you can pre-chill your glass by filling it with ice while you prepare the cocktail. Simply dump out the ice before straining the cocktail into the glass. 

photo of a coupe glass - the kind of glass you serve a black manhattan in

What Kind of Glass to Use for a Manhattan 

Manhattans are typically served in a martini glass, but they can also be served in a low ball glass or a coupe glass. These are the coupe glasses I have and I love them! 

Tips for Making a Black Walnut Manhattan 

  • Use a good quality rye – It’s the star ingredient, after all! 
  • Don’t serve over ice — That would dilute the drink. 
  • Use actual Averna Amaro rather than a substitute – This is such a simple drink that you really need the right ingredients to achieve the classic Manhattan flavor.  
  • Chill your glasses in the fridge — Or, pre-chill them by filling them with ice. Either way, the chilled cocktail glass will keep your cocktail colder for longer. 
  • Don’t skip the angostura bitters — You may need just 1 dash of them, but they’re a must! They add depth and warmth to the drink. 
  • Never shake a Manhattan — It makes the cocktail cloudy and ruins the presentation. 
  • Sip slowly — This is a strong drink meant to be enjoyed slowly over nibbles and good conversation! 

What to Serve with a Black Manhattan Cocktail 

A Black Manhattan cocktail is the perfect aperitif to enjoy with pre-dinner nibbles. Here are some suggestions for what you can serve alongside your rye whiskey cocktail. 





photo of a woman serving a black manhattan

Try this Black Manhattan Cocktail!

Next time you’re looking for a different way to make a traditional manhattan cocktail, give this Black Walnut Manhattan recipe a try!

Did you love this flavorful twist on a modern classic? Leave a comment below and give it a review so others can see what you thought of this classy drink.

On Instagram? Share your photo and tag me with @goodlifeeats and #goodlifeeatsrecipes. I’d love to see your photo of this Black Manhattan!

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This Cranberry Rosemary Shrub Cocktail is the perfect Thanksgiving cocktail! A homemade cranberry shrub with hints of black pepper, rosemary, and cinnamon is combined with bourbon and seltzer for a festive and colorful drink.

Fresh pressed apple cider, tart pomegranate juice, and Tempranillo pair with mulling spices and fresh fruit to create a fall-inspired cocktail. This mulled wine recipe is perfect for sipping during this autumn and winter season.

Don’t see what you’re looking for here? You can always head over to check out the recipe index to look for more recipes.

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photo of a woman holding a black manhattan cocktail in a coupe glass

Black Manhattan Cocktail

Yield: 2
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

The classic rye whiskey cocktail becomes even more sophisticated with the addition of black walnut bitters and Italian amaro. Learn how to make a Black Manhattan cocktail with this straightforward tutorial! 


  • 4 ounces Rye Whiskey
  • 2 ounce Averna Amaro
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters
  • 6 dashes Black Walnut Bitters
  • Ice


  • Luxardo Cherries
  • Orange peel


    1. Add the rye, amaro, angostura bitters, black walnut bitters, and ice to a cocktail mixing glass.
    2. Stir with a bar spoon or cocktail mixer for about 20-25 rotations.
    3. Strain the cocktail into a coupe glass; discard the ice.
    4. Garnish with luxardo cherries and orange peel.

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Nutrition Information
Yield 2 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 180Total Fat 1gSaturated Fat 0gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 1gCholesterol 0mgSodium 1mgCarbohydrates 3gFiber 0gSugar 2gProtein 0g offers recipe nutritional information as a courtesy. This provided information is an estimate only. This information comes from online calculators. Although makes every effort to provide accurate information, these figures are only estimates.

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