One Manhattan, Please. Bourbon or Rye?

 In Vya

Amongst cocktail enthusiasts, there is much debate over which makes a better Manhattan, a bourbon or rye?  Each spirit brings different qualities to this classic drink, as they are each different type of whiskey. What is the difference you ask?


  • Must contain 51% corn
  • 49% can be a wheat or rye
  • Must be distilled at 80% or lower
  • Aging barrel must be made of new chard, New American Oak
  • There is no minimum aging period.


  • Must contain 51% rye
  • 49% can be corn, wheat, or barley
  • Must be distilled at 80% or lower
  • Aging barrel must be made of brand new, chard, New American Oak
  • Must be aged for a minimum of two years.

So basically, the mash bill (the ratio of grains it includes) and the aging process are the factors that distinguish bourbon from rye. These two simple facts make all the difference when it comes to the taste of your Manhattan.


High levels of corn, give bourbon a strong alcohol backbone. Many cocktail aficionados argue that because bourbons mash bill includes so much corn and wheat, they don’t marry well with other ingredients. Sweet and smoky, bourbon Manhattans tend to feel rounder in your pallet. They often have notes of vanilla, honey, and toffee, which create richness in the cocktail.


Rye, on the other hand, is dry, spicy, sharp, and often has a cereal grain note that can come off as vegetable. Because rye is lean and bright, many argue that it makes a better base for a cocktail. In a Manhattan, the rye marries quite nicely with the complex herbal components of sweet vermouth and bitters.

So which one is better in a Manhattan? Well, that’s up to your personal taste!


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