Updated: Dec 22, 2020
Look. Everybody loves whisk(e)y. At least we assume so... But so often we get it the habit of making the same drink over and over again. We feel like Rye whiskey doesn't get enough love when this happens - as most people use bourbon. Which is great! Don't get us wrong. However, sometimes you need to spice things up and give Rye a try! (We literally only included that sentence for the rhyming). There is so much to love about Rye Whiskey!
The First thing to love - the bite. Rye whiskey must be made of at least 51% rye. Most use more and the other 49% can be a variety of different grains. But what makes Rye whiskey so great, is that the characteristics that come with Rye being fermented are quite peppery. It has a bite! Some describe is as "spicey." It's also drier than other whiskies, people often describe the mouthfeel as "leathery." Rye isn't quite as sweet as it's corn cousin, bourbon, so Rye often doesn't get the loving that it desires because some are turned off by that peppery-dry bite. Its attachment style would definitely be avoidant. It's traumatized. The poor thing. But it's not too late to create a secure attachment with our Rye whiskeys'!
That last half of that paragraph might have just been an inside joke that only I get. Still worth it. I laughed...anyway.
The second thing to love - it's healthy! Well. For being booze. Rye is a soluble fiber, and full of iron, calcium, Vitamin E, and potassium. It's been linked to reducing the risk of certain cancers, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Who's to say how many nutrients are actually retained through fermentation and distillation? But we like to pretend that all those nutrients are still there. It’s a mindset folks. There's actually a very good chance that many of them are in fact in our whiskey as Rye is much harder to refine than wheat so it retains more of the nutrients.
There's a lot more to love about Rye whiskey, but maybe it's best just to let you try it. Perhaps you already know the glories of Rye whiskey, but want some new recipes. Whatever your reasoning is for landing here on this article. Welcome! Gather Round! Come one, come all. Let's rediscover our love for Rye whiskey together.
Here are three excellent and underrated Rye whiskey cocktails to try this week as you try to forget that you can't go home for Christmas this year. Better yet, share the recipe with a friend and do a Christmas virtual Happy Hour! Either way, let me know if you try one of these winter-friendly Rye cocktails.
1. The Ward 8
The Ward 8 is perfect for those of you with a limited home bar. The ingredient list is relatively small. The only liquor required is Rye Whiskey. Easy enough! I particularly love to use Old Overholt for my Ward 8's, but Rittenhouse or any other Rye you love will work great.
The only tricky aspect of this cocktail is acquiring Pomegranate Molasses. You should be able to find it at any higher-end grocery store or Whole Foods. It lasts for a very long time and it's great in a lot of cocktails, so you'll get your money's worth. It adds such a lovely texture and sweetness to the cocktail, more so than using pom juice alone would.
Fun fact, this cocktail is brought to us from Boston, MA and the original garnish was a small Massachusetts flag. If you got one of those lying around. Feel free to use it. With that being said, here's how to make yourself this 1898 pre-prohibition classic.
2 oz Rye Whiskey
.5 oz fresh orange juice
.5 oz fresh lemon juice
.5 oz simple syrup
1 tsp pomegranate molasses
Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker.
Add at least 2 cups ice into the shaker.
Shake, shake, shake! Roughly 8 seconds or until chilled.
Strain into a glass. A coupe works excellent for this cocktail.
Garnish with a Massachusets flag (or a candied cherry) and enjoy.
2. The Seance
This one is a Don't-Forget-The-Garnish-Original. I created it for the fall, but I think it's an excellent winter cocktail too. So ignore the spooky webs. It's simply a joy to drink. The herbal nature of the Benedictine works amazing with the spicey-notes of the Rye whiskey and the wonderful aroma of the rosemary. It binds them together seamlessly and deliciously. The sweetness of this cocktail comes from the Maple Syrup. If I may, using a dark amber, higher-quality maple syrup will make a big difference. Don't use Mrs. Buttersworth. Preferably use Grade B Maple Syrup. However, that's really hard/impossible to find - so a good dark amber Grade A syrup will work.
It's simply a delicious and well-balanced cocktail that allows one to taste every flavor throughout the drinking experience. The Seance is one of my favorite cocktails I've ever created.
The last thing I'll say is that the choice of Rye whiskey is important for this one. You want something playful enough to infuse well with the rosemary but also pliable enough not to demand the spotlight. We want a subtlety to this Rye Whiskey. If you can, use Old Overholt. It's excellent choice because it accomplishes all those requirements.
3 dash Barrel-Aged bitters (or Angostura bitters if you don't have Barrel-Aged)
A quarter stick of rosemary (more will be needed for the garnish)
2 oz Rye Whiskey
.5 oz Benedictine (it's a liqueur)
.75 oz fresh lemon juice
.5 oz maple syrup
Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker.
Gently muddle the rosemary in the cocktail shaker.
Add at least 2 cups of ice to the cocktail shaker.
Shake, shake, shake! Shake for about 8 seconds.
Using a Double Rocks glass, use either an oversized icecube or fill the glass with ice.
Double strain (use a Hawthorne strainer AND a fine mesh sieve - we don't want rosemary bits in there) the contents of the shaker into the glass.
Express a lemon peel over the top of the cocktail and drop the peel in. Then using a stick of rosemary, remove the bottom quarter of the "leaves" revealing a lower half that looks like a tree trunk. Then gently place the rosemary into the cocktail.
Optionally light the rosemary on fire so that it's smoking. When you go to sip, you'll smell the flamed rosemary and it will add to the rosemary flavor you drink. Enjoy!
3. The Boulevardier
Now we all know about the Negroni. But do you know about the Boulevardier? Fun fact, this is probably my all-time favorite cocktail. Yeah. I said it. I just find it such a perfect combination of boozy, bitter, and hint-of-sweet. Plus, I'm obsessed with Campari. I love it. Campari AND Rye whiskey!? It's just...I would take it over a Negroni any day. Those might be fightin' words to some, so...don't tell anyone I said that.
Here's the thing. The trick to the Boulevardier (and Negroni too for that matter) is to use fresh vermouth and change the ratio's of the traditional recipe just a smidge. If you didn't know, Vermouth needs to be refrigerated and is only going to last two months tops. So if that opened bottle of vermouth has been on your bar-cart for the last two years... It's time to toss it and buy a new one.
The trick to buying vermouth without wasting it is to buy smaller bottles when possible - like a 375ml bottle. This isn't always possible though, so the better option is to just start making more vermouth cocktails. Which is fun AND delicious.
For the Boulevardier, I recommend using Cocchi Vermouth di Torino or Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth. But truthfully, any sweet vermouth will be just fine. Just make sure it's sweet vermouth and not dry vermouth. Otherwise, it's not a Boulevardier.
Any Rye whiskey will do here as this cocktail is made to highlight the flavor of the Rye. So whichever Rye you love - use that one. One of my favorites is to use High West Double Rye whiskey or Rittenhouse Bonded Rye. Let me know what yours is!
1.5 oz Rye Whiskey
.75 oz Campari
.75 oz Sweet Vermouth
Add all ingredients into a mixing glass or tin.
Add ice until the ice is well above the liquid.
Using a mixing spoon, stir the contents until it's chilled and diluted. Probably around 20-30 seconds.
Strain the contents into a glass, I love to use a coupe glass or martini glass.
Express the oils of an orange peel over the cocktail, and gently place the orange peel in the drink. Enjoy!