How to Make a Brooklyn, the Elegant Rye Cocktail That’s Better Than Your Manhattan

The Brooklyn is a decidedly unlucky cocktail. It’s the best Manhattan variation you’ve never had, the drink equivalent of an actor who’s got it all—looks, talent, charisma, you name it—but for some reason never breaks through. Since it was invented 115 years ago, the story of the Brooklyn has been a story of people, again and again, asking exactly the wrong question.

The cocktail’s first bit of bad luck hits it just after it’s invented. The Brooklyn pops into existence in 1908 but takes its near-current form in Jacques Straub’s 1913 book Manual of Mixed Drinks, where he says it’s a measure of “good” rye whiskey and dry vermouth, with a couple dashes of maraschino liqueur and of Amer Picon. Tragically, the question that America was asking at the time was not how to make the best drinks but instead whether drinking should be legal at all, and in 1919, Prohibition comes down like a meteor and clears the map. While the Manhattan had 40 years before Prohibition to entrench itself in the culture, the Brooklyn had barely put its shoes on, and never catches on the way it deserved to.

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The next blow to the cocktail came in the late ‘60s, when regulators at the FDA questioned whether their European counterparts were being too permissive with the use of a flowering herb called calamus. The FDA banned calamus outright in 1968, which is a bit of a problem because Amer Picon—the French herbal liqueur that gives the Brooklyn most of its charm—allegedly (see note at bottom) uses this herb in its recipe and was therefore unable to be imported. Picon remained legal in France but disappeared from American shelves, which, as you might imagine, did no favors to the cocktail’s popularity.

Fast forward to the modern era, and again, everyone’s asking the wrong question of the Brooklyn. “In order to make Brooklyns we need Amer Picon,” say the purists, “so what’s the best Amer Picon substitute?” Picon is still available in Europe, sold for like €12 per liter at any French supermarket, so various cocktail professionals will offer their opinion of the best Picon clone. Then someone will pop out of the woodwork and say no, that’s not real Picon, because that’s “Picon Bière,” a related but different product, and that “Amer Picon” is less sweet and rarer still. And then someone else will emerge and say, “No, no, no, even that Amer Picon isn’t real because the company changed its recipe in the 1940s, and so to make the real Amer Picon we need to make it higher proof…” and blah blah blah etc.

The question many of these people seem to be asking is how to best imitate a liqueur that was discontinued 80 years ago that none of us have ever, or will ever, experience. With respect, I think this is the wrong question. I believe the question should be: What tastes best in a Brooklyn?

Some people say Bigallet China China. Some people say Amaro CioCiaro. Some have DIY recipes that take two months to make and produce more than a gallon of liquid. Having tried pretty much all these (except for the last one), my favorite way—even better than the bottle of Picon Bière I smuggled back from France—is to use Amaro Ramazzotti and a couple dashes of orange bitters, making a cocktail that’s a little funky with maraschino and a little herbal with amaro and with a bright orange edge, the rye’s spice teased out and charmed by the dry vermouth. This makes a Brooklyn the way I believe it was meant to be—a Manhattan but drier, more esoteric but still a crowd pleaser. The Brooklyn has always been delicious but now only asks for easily available ingredients, and in doing so, hopefully can finally get its break.


  • 2 oz. rye whiskey

  • 0.5 oz. dry vermouth

  • 0.25 oz. Maraschino Liqueur

  • 0.25 oz. Amaro Ramazotti

  • 2 dashes orange bitters

Add all ingredients to a chilled mixing glass. Add ice and stir briskly for 10 seconds (if using small ice) to 25 seconds (if using big ice). Strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass, and garnish with a maraschino cherry.


Rittenhouse Rye manhattan
Rittenhouse Rye manhattan

Rye Whiskey: For the rye, I go with Rittenhouse, because it’s affordable and punchy and excellent for cocktail work. It makes a dry and complex Brooklyn. If you like your cocktails a little softer and smoother and don’t think “punchy” is an appealing adjective, Indiana ryes like Bulleit Rye or Dickel Rye are great—in this drink they present as milder and more herbaceous, really amping up that green herbal rye note.

Dry Vermouth: My go to is Dolin, which is a solid all-purpose dry vermouth, but if you felt like experimenting, this could be a good cocktail to do it. A little more flavor wouldn’t hurt, so something with a bit more personality like Mancino Secco would make an interesting and worthwhile Brooklyn.

Maraschino: Sometimes, like with the Last Word or something, I insist on Luxardo, which is by far the most popular bottling of maraschino liqueur and probably the only one you’ll be able to find even at a well-stocked liquor store. For this drink, though, as with the dry vermouth, I think it’s sturdy enough to handle variation. Luxardo does indeed make a fantastic Brooklyn, but if you wanted to try out Maraska (the other popular brand), you’d find it different but still delicious, a fruitier and less funky cocktail.

Picon: As mentioned, I think Ramazotti and orange bitters have the right balance of orange brightness, floralness, bitterness, and strength. This is personal taste territory though, degrees of deliciousness expressed in a quarter ounce, so there’s lots of room for disagreement. I strongly prefer my version, but whatever you use, use it sparingly—it’s supposed to perfume, brighten, and deepen your cocktail, but more than 1/4oz can drown out the other ingredients.

Calamus in Picon: I say that Picon “allegedly” uses calamus, which is why it’s unable to be imported to the U.S. It’s maddeningly difficult to find official information here. This is an often-repeated claim, but as best I can tell, everyone who claims this (me included) learned it from David Lebovitz, the author of Drinking French, who reports that he was told this “over drinks in Paris” by Peter Schaf, the cofounder of Tempus Fugit Spirits. I personally trust this information—if anyone would know, Schaf would know—but it’s sufficiently flimsy hearsay that I feel the need to add this disclaimer.

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