On the Sauce: Catching Up On Rye

If you’re like us, you’re busting your brains trying to figure out the difference between whiskey and rye. We know. Here’s the lowdown with one of the wryest rye experts out there, Gerry Graham.  

The Smoking Jacket: From fancy cocktail bars to Boardwalk Empire, classic cocktails with rye are all the rage right now. Why is that?

Gerry Graham: Well, pre-prohibition, rye was the whiskey of choice for classic cocktails but disappeared for the most part post prohibition. Almost a century later, we’re seeing a huge revival surrounding rye whiskey. Much of the growth can be attributed to the demand of classic cocktails that benefit from rye whiskey, such as the Manhattan, Old Fashioned and Sazerac that need a firmer backbone. Bartenders and mixologists alike prefer to use rye when mixing classic cocktails not only to stick to the traditional recipes but also because of the spice and added complexity that rye brings to their cocktails .

TSJ: What’s the difference in a rye whiskey and a regular whiskey?

GG: To be considered a rye whiskey in the US at least 51 percent of your mash must consist of rye ( with the remainder of the mash usually being made up of corn and barley ) and be distilled to no more than 160 proof (80 percent ABV) and then placed in the barrel at no more than 125 proof (62.5 ABV). This presents really nice smoky, spicy tasti notes.

TSJ: What is your favorite rye cocktail? What’s the recipe?

GG: I’m a traditional guy, so I love a good Manhattan. You can never go wrong with that one, right? One of my favorite Manhattan recipes includes the new George Dickel Rye.

- 1 oz George Dickel Rye, .25 oz Sweet Vermouth, 3 dashes Angostura Bitters
– Stir, strain and garnish with a luxardo cherry and a lemon peel expressed and discarded

TSJ: What types of rye do you like to use?

GG: I’m a huge fan of Bulleit Rye, but George Dickel Rye has quickly become one my favorites as well. Both liquids have a beautiful spiciness to the finish and stand up well in a cocktail.

TSJ: George Dickel just launched a new rye, correct? What makes it different from the others?

GG: Yes, after bartenders, mixologists and the George Dickel faithful kept begging Master Distiller John Lunn to release a rye, he has proudly obliged them and George Dickel Rye will hit shelves at end of November. George Dickel Rye is different from other ryes because once the liquid has aged, it is cold chilled the then charcoal mellowed the George Dickel way for the smoothest finish around.

TSJ: What does George Dickel’s rye actually taste like? Describe it so non whiskey snobs will understand!

GG: Upon initial nosing, drinkers will smell a fresh, grainy scent reminiscent of unseeded rye bread with notes of fruit on the finish. The fruit notes maintain upon first taste and then meld into a succulent nuttiness midpalate. A long, composed spiciness finishes the George Dickel Rye tasting experience.

TSJ: If you could make a Rye cocktail for anybody in history who would it be and what would you make them?

GG: Good question! In terms of who I would make a cocktail for, I would probably go with THE George A. Dickel. The guy did everything by hand and was making whiskey as smooth as it gets all the way back in 1870. I make a mean Manhattan, so I would probably go with that and use the new rye to see what he thought of it. If not him, Sean Connery. I love that guy… but stirred, this time! (Manhattans should be stirred for best consistency.)


And now, Rye Rye


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