What Is the Difference Between a Manhattan and an Old Fashioned? (Updated 2024)

difference between a manhattan and an old fashioned

Are you curious about what the difference between a manhattan and an old-fashioned is? Stick around as we will share the answer along with some interesting facts.

Nothing suggests a relaxing night like the thought of sipping some classic cocktails.

Whether you simply want to chill or have a fun celebration with your favorite pals, these drinks stand among the best if you want to make an occasion warm and memorable.

If you’re new to the cocktail world, you’re probably still familiarizing yourself with different cocktail varieties.

If that’s the case, the best way to start is always by exploring the classics. From the famous Cosmopolitan and the modest Margarita to the refreshing Mojito, a myriad of classic cocktails await.

Among the best to try first are the popular Old Fashioned and Manhattan.

Dubbed by many as the ultimate cocktail rivals, the two share tons of similarities that often leave drinkers confused about how exactly the two differ.

To help you draw the line between the two we have a brief guide explaining exactly how a Manhattan and Old Fashioned differs.

Read on.

Manhattan and an Old Fashioned – A Rivalry Stemming from the 1800s


Widely recognized as two of the best-known, classic whiskey cocktails, Manhattans and Old Fashioneds have a decades-long rivalry between them.

Specifically, both drinks originated in the 1800s, and while the two share some similarities, each is made and served entirely differently.

To date, with the rivalry still in motion, many drinkers find themselves torn between the two.

While some believe that an Old Fashioned tastes better, others claim that Manhattan reigns supreme.

To help you come up with your own answer, we have a complete guide to introduce you to both of them.

Check them out below.

The Old Fashioned – History and Recipe

Dubbed by Esquire as “basically the OG cocktail,” an Old Fashioned reigns as the most common method of dressing up whiskey.

Historically, the drink’s inception traces back to the early 1800s, back in Louisville, KY.

According to Whiskey Watch, the record of the existence of the Old Fashioned first appeared in a New York newspaper, which merely described the drink as a “cocktail.”

At the time, the drink only consisted of water, sugar, bitters, and spirits – with no whiskey specifically involved!

old fashioned cocktail

The drink became an instant hit and, for years, different versions of the cocktail launched using entirely different alcohols.

It wasn’t until the 1860s when the traditional version came back into style, therefore creating the name “Old Fashioned.”

To date, given the background of the drink, the real definition of an Old Fashioned remains subject to debate.

However, its classic version involves only three simple ingredients: whiskey (often Bourbon or Rye), bitters, and sugar.

To create an Old Fashioned, you only need to add the three ingredients together in one glass. Once done, add ice and the cocktail is ready for sipping.

Manhattan – History and Recipe

Similar to the Old Fashioned, the birth of Manhattan traces back to the 1800s.

However, there are different versions of exactly how the drink came to be.

One version states that the cocktail was created at the Manhattan Club, while another claim that the drink was invented by a man named Black.

manhattan cocktail

To date, while uncovering the true story behind the invention of Manhattan seems impossible, the drink, nevertheless, remains a popular drink that has stood the test of time.

Similar to the Old Fashioned, the traditional version of Manhattan involves only three basic ingredients.

However, while the former involves whiskey, bitters, and sugar, a Manhattan makes use of whiskey (usually bourbon), sweet vermouth, and angostura bitters.

Difference Between Manhattan and Old Fashioned

Generally, while both an Old Fashioned and a Manhattan are made with whiskey, the two differ in terms of taste, ingredients used, and how they are normally served.

Specifically, since an Old Fashioned makes use of sugar cubes, the drink generally tastes sweeter.

Meanwhile, a Manhattan comes with a slight touch of bitterness and some herbal undertones from the bitters and vermouth.

When serving the drinks, an Old Fashioned typically comes in its namesake glass, coupled with a slice/peel of orange or cherry, while a Manhattan comes in a cocktail glass.

The Bottom Line

Have you found your preference between the two? Although both tasty and fun to drink, the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan come with their own distinct strengths.

Which among the two appealed to you more? Get a taste of these best-known classic whiskey cocktails and see for yourself which generates the better cocktail experience.


4 Best Old-Fashioned Recipes

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Check out these great Old-Fashioned Recipes that have been shared on Pinterest.

  • Author: Recipe Marker



  1. Click on each link above to view the pin and recipe.
  2. Obtain all the necessary ingredients to make the recipe.
  3. Follow the steps to create your dish.
  4. Enjoy your delicious meal =)

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