Updated 11/5/23 — Made famous from the start, this award-winning pecan Manhattan cocktail, called the French Quarter Manhattan, appears at cocktail bars across the state and country. This simple, three ingredient cocktail is a perfect dessert Manhattan for bourbon lovers or a fun cocktail for drinkers new to bourbon. Easy to batch and easier to sip, it’s a fan favorite.
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What is a Manhattan cocktail?
A traditional Manhattan has just three ingredients – whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. It has a long and storied history, getting its name from the Manhattan Club in New York in the 1880s. At the time vermouth was rising in popularity in both the US and in Europe, so of course, the Americans created cocktails with it.
Find out more about the history of the Manhattan cocktail and how to make a classic Manhattan cocktail here. It’s likely the cocktail started with rye whiskey, not bourbon, but since we’re adding nut flavors, bourbon is preferred for this whiskey cocktail.
For me, my favorite ratio of whiskey to vermouth in a classic Manhattan cocktail is 2 ounces bourbon to 1 ounce vermouth. I’m keeping that classic ratio here but using a nut liqueur instead of vermouth.
If you want a compilation of some of the easy (and well-known) Manhattan Variations, head to 8 Common Variations of the Manhattan Cocktail.
French Quarter Manhattan
Let me introduce you to a nutty riff on a Manhattan called the French Quarter Manhattan. This is the recipe that started it all. In 2015 I entered this cocktail in the Bourbon Women Not Your Pink Drink Contest amateur competition and it won.
It’s even included in a great Kentucky Bourbon Cocktails book curated by Susan Reigler.
It’s an easy cocktail with only three ingredients, but each ingredient truly matters. It’s a cocktail that lets the nut flavors shine and pulls out lovely sweet and toasted notes from the bourbon. The chocolate bitters added to it are the icing on the cake.
It’s also tremendously easy to batch. I’ve made this many times to take to parties or as a gift for friends who love bourbon cocktails. I’ll include that in the notes for the recipe below. When made in an empty 750 ml bottle, you’ll have enough for about 8 cocktails. Keep it in the fridge and you’ve got your happy hour cocktail ready for you each night of quarantine.
Why French Quarter Manattan?
It’s named the French Quarter Manhattan because the flavors remind me of a pecan praline like you’d find in the quarter in New Orleans. The best ones have a touch of chocolate in them, in my opinion, so I wanted to use chocolate bitters to give a hint of that flavor.
You can play with the flavors by changing out the base bourbon spirit you’re using. If you want a very smooth, nutty cocktail, use a lower-proof bourbon and something with lots of nut notes on the palate. For me, that means Woodford, Four Roses Small Batch, or Old Forester 1870. But, I generally look to higher-proof bourbons in my cocktails.
Personally, I prefer higher-proof cocktails with this one. I’ve used Old Forester 1920 to make an outstanding cocktail with this as well as New Riff Bourbon. Both are on the higher-proof end of bourbons.
Since there are so few ingredients, the liqueur you use for the pecan flavor is critical. I prefer mine made with Rivulet pecan liqueur. Rivulet is possibly my most favorite nut liqueur. It’s sweet, but not cloying and has this luscious toasted pecan flavor. To be honest, it’s made its way onto ice cream, pancakes and waffles. I have used other pecan liqueurs and they make a nice cocktail, but Rivulet is what I prefer for this combination of flavors.
Garnish here can be simple, a cocktail cherry, or can be a toasted pecan or even a praline! Since most of us are stuck at home, use what’s at hand until you make your next grocery trip and enjoy the flavors.
Other Manhattan Cocktails You Might Enjoy
Recommended Bar Tools
You don’t need every slick, beautiful bar tool out there, but there are several I’ll recommend. (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. However, that does not affect the cost of the items below.) My favorite pieces usually come from the Cocktail Kingdom section of Amazon:
You may already have these bar essentials, but just in case:
Previous Quarantine Weeks
Previously, we’ve had a week of Quarantine Old Fashioneds (Breakfast Wakey Wakey, Smoke and Spice, Home School, Taco Truck, and Campari/Bitter Lessons) a week of Quarantine Whiskey Sours (Blackberry Sunset, Whiskey Tiki, Blue Mood Orange, Ya Basic, and Peach Rosemary), but this week we get to my favorite of all whiskey cocktails, the Manhattan. For me the perfect Manhattan is 2 oz of bourbon or rye, 1 oz of a high-end sweet vermouth and a few dashes of bitters. The bitters I use largely depend on the whiskey and vermouth. But we’re here to talk about a specific Manhattan variation.
French Quarter Manhattan
- 2 oz bourbon
- 1 oz pecan or praline liqueur I used Rivulet liqueur
- 3 dashes chocolate bitters
- Garnish: praline toasted spiced pecan, or cocktail cherry.
- Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir until well-chilled and strain into a chilled coupe or martini glass. Garnish with a praline if you have it, toasted pecans and a cherry if you don’t.