Black Manhattan is a cocktail made with whiskey, Averna, orange bitters, and angostura bitters.

Black Manhattan

What is Black Manhattan?

Black Manhattan is a cocktail made with whiskey, Averna, orange bitters, and angostura bitters. It is a popular variant of the classic Manhattan cocktail. The substitution of Averna for vermouth makes a huge difference to the taste and color of the cocktail.

  • It takes on a black hue and has a refreshing herbal taste with notes of sweetness, bitterness and earthiness.
  • The original drink was named after the district of Manhattan in New York City, while this version got its name from its signature dark color.

Some of the popular variations of Manhattan are:

  • Perfect Manhattan
  • Brooklyn
  • Greenpoint
  • Redhook
  • Remember the Maine
  • Civil War
  • Rob Roy
  • Clint Eastwood
  • Black Manhattan
  • Toronto

Origin of black manhattan

Legend has it that the original cocktail was created by Dr. Iain Marshall in a party in a New York club called Manhattan. Although another story insists that the drink was invented by a bartender named Black who ran a pub on Broadway. What is certain is that the cocktail has been around since the 1880s. In 1882, its first printed mention came in an article in the Sunday Morning Herald. However, the Black Manhattan is a more modern invention and was created in 2005 by Todd Smith, a bartender at the Bourbon and Branch in San Francisco.


Nutritional profile for Black Manhattan (1 glass):

Since whiskey is distilled in copper stills, it contains copper, which helps in the creation of red blood cells, absorbs iron, boosts the immune system, and protects cells. It prevents the onset of anemia and osteoporosis. Also, whiskey contains antioxidants, which help in preventing heart diseases and can help prevent gout and other uric acid diseases. Some popular ingredients in Averna amaro are gentian, rhubarb, wormwood, cinchona, angelica, myrrh, green cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, sarsaparilla, mint, bitter orange, orris, and yaupon holly. These may provide a host of positive health benefits. 

Nonetheless, it is not recommended to drink cocktails on a regular basis. Overconsumption of alcoholic beverages can lead to several health problems, including affecting the brain’s functioning patterns and general lowering of immunity. Liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis, high blood pressure, stroke, and different types of cancers  may also occur. It is best to consume this drink responsibly and in moderation.

Commercial preparation

To prepare a Black Manhattan, the main ingredients required are rye whiskey, Averna amaro, orange bitters, and angostura bitters. Traditionalists assert that the cocktail be prepared with American rye whiskey, but Canadian whiskey and bourbon are acceptable alternatives. First, the ingredients are added in a glass filled with ice and stirred well. Then, they are strained into the glass. A brandied cherry is the usual garnish. The cocktail is usually served in a martini glass. However, a cocktail or coupe glass is also acceptable.

Black manhattan recipes

This is a flavorful cocktail and lends itself to variations. Here are a few recipes to try:

FDA regulations

The Manhattan cocktail is described by the TTB as any cocktail that contains whiskey and vermouth. The general definition of whiskey is that it is a distilled spirit made from a fermented mash of grain with less than 95% ABV and more than 40% ABV. In addition, the organization classifies averna as an amaro/amaretto, which is defined as almond flavored liqueur/cordial. Bitters are defined as distilled spirits that are distinguished by their bitterness, which is produced by blending together the extracts of plants, seeds, herbs, barks, and roots with distilled spirits.


Mäkelä, Pia et al. “A bottle of beer, a glass of wine or a shot of whiskey? Can the rate of alcohol-induced harm be affected by altering the population’s beverage choices?.” Contemporary drug problems vol. 38,4 (2011): 599-619. doi:10.1177/009145091103800408,

Heart Foundation New Zealand, Alcohol and the Heart,