For generations, cocktail enthusiasts have debated which among the world’s most beloved cocktails is the sweetest: Manhattan or Old Fashioned? Both cocktails have played a significant role in cocktail history and continue to amaze people with their intriguing flavors and elegance. However, in this article, we shall try to settle the debate once and for all by comparing the sweetness quota of these drinks in earnest.

Comparative Tasting: A Guide to Choosing the Sweetest Cocktail

The sweetness factor is a vital component of any cocktail; it can make or break a drinking experience. To determine which of the two classic cocktails has the most impressive sweetness flavor, we embarked on a tasting process.

We started by defining sweetness quotient as the level of sweet tasting notes that are perceptible in a drink; this includes simple syrup, sugar-coated garnishes, and other sources of sugar or sweet flavors in the cocktail.

To compare the sweetness levels of Manhattan and Old Fashioned, we tasted both cocktails side-by-side. To make the Manhattan we used rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and dash of Angostura bitters while for Old Fashioned, we used Bourbon whiskey, Angostura bitters, simple syrup, and an orange slice.

After tasting both cocktails, we identified the sweetness notes in each one. The Old Fashioned had a stronger perceptible sweetness due to the simple syrup. On the other hand, the Manhattan’s sweetness was less pronounced but more unique due to the vermouth’s fruity notes, thus proving to be a more complex drink.

Based on this analysis, we concluded that the Old Fashioned was the sweetest of the two, but Manhattan offered more intriguing and complex flavors.

Who Is the Sweetest? Discovering the True Legends of Cocktail History

To better understand which cocktail is the sweetest, we explored the intriguing histories of Manhattan and Old Fashioned.

The Manhattan originated in the late 19th century in New York, and it was originally made with American whiskey, Italian vermouth, and Angostura Bitters. The drink’s name was inspired by the posh Manhattan club, where it was first served. The Old Fashioned first appeared in print during the 1880s, with bartenders often using Bourbon whiskey, bitters, sugar, and water to craft the drink.

The cultural significance of these classic cocktails continues to thrive. Manhattan’s appeal can be attributed to its luxurious taste and exclusivity, while Old Fashioned’s charm lies in its simplicity and ease of preparation.

While the sweetness quotient of both cocktails is subject to interpretation, the Old Fashioned has more observable sugar notes than Manhattan, and as such, it has become a staple beverage for those seeking a sweeter cocktail.

The Ingredients of Sweetness: A Comprehensive Exploration of Manhattan and Old Fashioned Cocktails

The sweetness of a cocktail depends heavily on its ingredients. We analyzed the ingredients of both Manhattan and Old Fashioned, focusing on those that contribute to sweetness.

In Old Fashioned, a simple syrup consisting of water and sugar is added to Bourbon whiskey and bitters. The sugar in the syrup elevates the cocktail’s sweetness while also adding a light texture. The old fashioned recipe includes an orange slice and cherry as garnish, contributing to the drink’s sweetness and adding off an extra visual appeal.

In contrast, The Manhattan Cocktail relies on sweet vermouth for its sweetness, which gives it a unique and balanced flavor profile. It’s combined with rye whiskey and balanced out with Angostura Bitters. This balance of sweet and bitter flavors is what makes the Manhattan a favorite among many cocktail lovers.

Although both cocktails have the same basic ingredients, it is the ratios of those ingredients that make them distinct. The Old Fashioned blending of bitters, sugar, and Bourbon whiskey has a higher sugar content than Manhattan, making it sweeter.

My Favorite Sweetness: Opinions on Manhattan and Old Fashioned Cocktails

We reached out to bartenders, mixologists, and other connoisseurs for their input on the Manhattan versus Old Fashioned sweetness debate.

Troy, Mixologist and Founder of the Suburban Cocktail Company, appears to lean more towards the Manhattan: “The sweetness quotient in Manhattan lies in the Vermouth. Working with a great Vermouth can mean the difference between an average Manhattan and a great one.”

Frankie, a mixologist based in Downtown also supports the Manhattan: “The Manhattan can often easily be dismissed as too serious or spicy by those looking for a sweeter drink. However, if made right and with a great Vermouth, it has the right sweetness for sophisticated palates.”

Despite such opinions, many bartenders and mixologists still recommend the Old Fashioned as the sweeter of the two. Matt of the Stomp Cocktail Lounge states that “The perfect Old Fashioned highlights the sweetness of the Bourbon whiskey, which is equally weighed by the bitters.”

Ultimately, opinions on which is the sweeter of the two vary. However, the general consensus among mixologists and bartenders is that both cocktails possess rich and unique sweetness notes, and it’s upon their choice of ingredients to decide how sweet to make them.

The Perfect Combination: Pairing Desserts with Manhattan and Old Fashioned Cocktails

The sweetness of Manhattan and Old Fashioned makes them the perfect beverages to pair with desserts. Here are some pairing suggestions to bring out their best sweet flavors:

Old Fashioned:
– Classic Sidecar featuring ruby red grapefruit and lemon juice
– Vanilla ice cream with caramel syrup

– Dark chocolate with sea salt sprinkled on it
– toasted marshmallow and chocolate tart

These desserts pairings would bring out the respective cocktail’s unique sweetness notes, adding more depth to both the dessert and the beverage.


In conclusion, the debate over which cocktail between Manhattan and Old fashioned has a more impressive sweetness quotient is subjective. However, based on our comparison, Old Fashioned had clear indications of being the sweetest of the two, while Manhattan offered more complex and intriguing flavors. That said, it would be best to leave the final decision to your tastebuds.

We encourage you to try out the recipes we have shared and experiment with our suggestions for dessert and cocktail pairings. In the end, it all boils down to your preference, but do not be scared to step out of your comfort zone and try something new.

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By Happy Sharer

Hi, I'm Happy Sharer and I love sharing interesting and useful knowledge with others. I have a passion for learning and enjoy explaining complex concepts in a simple way.

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