Rye: Coming Back Strong
Now it’s hitting the market with a strong hand, reclaiming its place as America’s preferred spirit. Classic rye cocktails are very much in style these days, and to get to know how to use them, you should know what you’re looking for in one. So, let’s take it back to the basics.
Rye, by law, has to have a mash bill of no less than 51% rye, while the remainder can be corn, grain, barley, or other grains. Rye offers a more distinct, layered and complex flavor of spice and grains than any other whiskey out there. Whereas people prefer bourbon for its sweet, smooth, caramel-like body, those who like ryes will prefer the spicy, firm richness that gives rye the more bold personality.
You’ll usually find notes of walnut, black pepper, spices, toasted grains, and sometimes a nice spiced vanilla or cinnamon. All these different flavors in a rye open up a world of possibilities, allowing you to to mix, match or infuse it with something. Certain cocktails were even invented solely to complement a rye whiskey: the Manhattan, a Sazerac, a Ward 8 or an Old Fashioned. Fruit or fruit bitters can be rye’s best friend if you allow the spice in the whiskey and the sweet top of the fruit to meld together — just as one would do if pairing cheese and wine.
These days, it’s hard to know which one to use for mixing or which one to just sip on. Honestly, price should be your only option here, because there is something affordable that will do the trick, no matter the price level.
When using rye for mixed cocktails, you can get a good bottle around/under $25. You can find ones that give you the brash, bright nature that is associated with a rye, without losing the important flavor that you need. The Wild Turkey rye has done an amazing job providing exactly what I needed to make a good drink, great body style and wonderful flavor notes, such as molasses and spicy honey. Another one I found to have pretty much the same body and style was the Jim Beam Rye. This is a good starter rye for people that don’t have a lot of experience with ryes or mixing.
There is a new rye on the market that has become one of my favorites for making cocktails — Redemption Rye out of Bardstown, KY. It’s light and crisp in body and weight, but the flavors carry through from the beginning to the finish. It’s bold and has taken the rye percent up to a huge 95%! Pops of citrus fruit complement the huge spicy notes and toast. In my opinion, a perfect rye!
For those who like to sip their rye on the rocks or neat, so many distillers have come out with what’s considered a “high end” rye. These are, perhaps, for the experienced palate, but they’re also a gateway for those who want to delve into the world of bourbons and whiskeys.
They tend to have a heavier body, a little more smoothness and are usually aged longer. Some of these include Rittenhouse Rye, Thomas Handy, High West and Sazerac. Many of the more costly ryes are aged from 10 to 20 years, giving them the extra “oomph” that I like to find in a rye. Bigger flavors of spice, oak, and toasted fruit are prominent through these. If you want to make one of the best Manhattans, I would suggest using the Rendezvous Rye from High West or a Sazerac 18. It really is like candy in a glass.
It is fun to get people outside of their normal patterns when it comes to cocktails. For your friends that prefer the Single Malt scotches and the single barrel bourbons, challenge them to try and find a rye that is comparable to their preferred drink of choice. It is possible… and always fun.
The main thing to remember is to always enjoy it. If anything, that should be the fun part about finding a rye that suits you. Trying really is believing. That’s the only way to know what you really like. However, if help is needed, we at Midtown will be happy to assist you in finding what is right for you. Ryes started the whiskey craze and are determined to find their place back in the whiskey world… Only you can make it happen!
Posted in: Spirits News