Manhattan vs. Old Fashioned What is the Difference?

Manhattan vs. Old Fashioned What is the Difference?

If you are a fan of whiskey and want a classic way to enjoy this drink, then there are two major cocktails that you have to choose from: the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned. If you aren’t particularly experienced with either one, then it may be difficult to tell the difference between these two iconic drinks. After all, they both look relatively similar and are even made with some of the same ingredients.

However, if you want to start ordering your whiskey drinks like a pro, and to actually understand what it is that you are ordering, then you need to know the difference between these two drinks so you can decide which cocktail is right for you.

The Main Ingredients

Both Manhattans and Old Fashioned’s are made with whiskey. They are also both very simple cocktails that were designed to help bring out the flavor of the whiskey. In short, if you don’t like the taste of whiskey these aren’t the cocktails for you. This is also why the type of whiskey that you use is so important. If you find a whiskey you really like, whether it is a bourbon or a rye, consider adding it to one of these cocktails so the taste really shines.

The other ingredient that both of these cocktails share is bitters. From there, they start to have some slight variations.

Old Fashioned

The Sweetener

Even though both cocktails are made with bitters, which are, in fact, quite bitter on their own, they are also lightly sweetened. The Old Fashioned is sweetened with sugar. More specifically, it is supposed to be sweetened with a sugar cube that is dissolved in a splash of water. However, some mixologists will also sweeten their Old Fashioned with simple syrup.

A Manhattan on the other hand is sweetened with sweet vermouth. While some cocktail connoisseurs may prefer different amounts of sweet vermouth, the standard ratio is two parts whiskey to one part sweet vermouth.

The Garnish

One of the main ways you can tell the difference between an Old Fashioned and a Manhattan is with the garnish. An Old Fashioned is garnished with an orange peel. It is actually a very important addition to the drink. You need to leave the peel inside the drink so by the time you are done, your cocktail has a nice citrus flavor to it.

A Manhattan on the other hand is garnished with a brandied cherry. Some bartenders will also put a hint of the cherry juice in the cocktail to really give it that extra hint of flavor.



This is one area where drinks can really vary depending on the individual drinking it. Traditionally Manhattans are served straight up after they have been mixed with ice so they are cool, but served without any ice. Old Fashioned’s are typically served on a giant ice sphere. Although you can order your drinks on any type of ice that you want.

How They’re Served

Most people making their own Manhattans or Old Fashioned’s will simply serve their drinks in a standard low ball glass or cocktail glass. However, they are meant to be served differently. The Manhattan should technically be served in a martini-style glass, although some prefer not to drink it in this form. The Old Fashioned is served in a short, wide glass, often simply called an Old Fashioned glass.