Category Archives: Rye

6 Best Budget Ryes

Bad rye whiskey? Sadly, there is such a thing as bad rye; usually, the juice is so young, it has no nuance or subtlety, and all you get is fire and unpleasant fruity flavors. But enough about the not-so-good stuff. Let’s talk instead of the stars of the budget-rye universe.

Good rye should be spicy, somewhat fruity, and a little more rugged than bourbon. A common analogy is to compare rye bread to corn bread, and use that comparison to point out the differences between rye and bourbon. (The analogy is imperfect, but it’s a reasonable starting point.)

[Read more]

Rye Resurgent

From Shanken News Daily, a look at the rise of rye whiskey.

Rye Whiskey Rising Fast, Spurred By Dynamic On-Trade Cocktail Culture

The U.S. whisk(e)y renaissance and vibrant cocktail culture have created ideal timing for rye whiskey’s serious return to the marketplace. The category, which never really recovered from Prohibition (1920-1933) and was relegated to near-oblivion as other whisk(e)y categories filled the void, is now back on track and making headway with support from some of the biggest U.S. whiskey producers.

[Link to full article.]

Country star makes a Manhattan

I got a funny sort of PR email today. A country artist I’ve never heard of, Kelleigh Bannen, has a new song out, and to promote it, she did a video in which she makes a Manhattan.

Ordinarily, I’d let this sort of thing pass me right by, or if I were mildly interested, I’d watch the video and then forget about it entirely. A couple of reasons I’m not doing that now. Watch the video; it’s under three minutes. I think you’ll see the first notable thing right away.

[YouTube]

Tell me you weren’t surprised by the whiskey. Oh, and she chose rye, which sadly is notable in itself. The cherries aren’t a bad call, either. Technique? Y’know what, I don’t sweat shaking vs. stirring when it comes to mixing a drink at home. The primary reason to stir a Manhattan is to maintain clarity in the drink when you serve it. Shaking agitates the cocktail and makes it hazy looking. Aesthetics matter in cocktail making, but they’re not always crucial. Serving it on the rocks? Well, first, it’s the giant Tovolo tray, so there’s that. Second, here’s my shameful secret: I prefer Manhattans on a giant rock like that.

My only real quibble is why she’s so adamant that the bitters go on at the end.

A Very Hoppy MxMo

MxMo HopsWow, I don’t even want to think about how long it’s been since I’ve participated in a Mixology Monday. All sorts of things–lazyness, apathy, antipathy, psychopathy–have gotten in the way. But I’m back, dammit, at least for this one. I love this month’s theme–beer cocktails–so I’m happy to play along. Ta muchly to Cocktail Virgin Slut for hosting!

I’ve decided to update a cocktail I submitted to a Food52 competition, in the long-ago days of October 2009. I didn’t win or place or even show, unfortunately, but I love the drink I made, so I’m hoping this time it meets with more enthusiasm. Here’s my writeup from Food52:

The Seelbock is a variant of the classic Seelbach cocktail, from the Seelbach Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky–bourbon, Cointreau, and generous amounts of both Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters, topped off with a big pour of champagne. For this version, I used a 100-proof rye whiskey in place of bourbon and I tinkered with the bitters. And most importantly, I used a weisse beer, a wheat beer, in place of the champagne. Wheat beers are light, effervescent, and yeasty, just like champagne. For this, I chose the Schneider & Brooklyner Hopfen Weisse, a collaboration between Schneider Weissbier and Brooklyn Brewery. If you can’t find this brew, substitute any good quality wheat beer. If you can’t find lemon bitters, you can muddle lemon peel into the mixing glass before you add the other ingredients.

Some things I didn’t tell the Food52 crowd (I like to keep my headnotes there short):

  • I swapped rye for bourbon because I thought it would provide a stronger backbone for a beer cocktail.
  • I ditched the Peychaud’s because, frankly, I didn’t like it at all in this drink. I found it clashed with the beer. So instead I used lemon bitters (The Bitter Truth’s version), and that was a great choice because it highlights the natural citrus notes in the beer.

photo © Jennifer Hess; all rights reserved

Now, as I said, the July 2011 version of the Seelbock is an update, and here are the changes I’ve made:

First, although it makes a lot of sense to choose a Weisse beer that somewhat resembles champagne (light, effervescent, and yeasty), I’m not sure it makes a lot of sense to name a drink -bock when you’re using a Weisse. And, since I wasn’t sure I’d find the Schneider & Brooklyner Hopfen Weisse again (since it was a limited-edition brew), I thought, well, hell, Dietsch, just get a goddamn bock this time.

So I got a goddamn bock this time, but I kept it in the G. Schneider und Sohn family, choosing their Aventinus doppelbock. It’s wheaty, of course, like their Brooklyn Brewery collab, but it’s a lot darker and richer. I wanted to play with it in this cocktail, to see what a darker brew would add.

The only other change I made to the original recipe was here: “1 ounce rye whiskey”. Let me be honest: I did that for Food52, concocting a less-potent cocktail than I normally drink, in hopes that civilians would try it. I don’t need to do that here.

Between the oils from the lemon twist, the lemon bitters, and the Cointreau, this is a brightly citrusy cocktail, which makes it all the more refreshing for a hot July day. I think I’m happier with this version than I was the Food52 edition.

Seelbock

  • 1 1/2 oz. rye whiskey (I used Rittenhouse, as I did in the original)
  • 1/2 oz. Cointreau (I don’t know why I preferred Grand Marnier originally; perhaps it was all I had at the moment)
  • 1/4 oz. lemon bitters (measure!)
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 4-5 oz. Aventinus doppelbock
  • lemon twist, for garnish
  1. In a mixing glass filled with ice, stir rye, Cointreau, and both bitters.
  2. Strain into champagne flute and top with beer.
  3. Add garnish.
  4. Burp and be happy.

Ad of the Week: Old Overholt

A while back, I mentioned that Old Overholt rye was once bottled at 100-proof. Here, pardon the pun, is proof. Click through to view these in a larger size. oldoverholt-full

oldoverholt-detail1

oldoverholt-detail2

The biggest surprise in this ad might be how few of these bottlings are now “ghost” brands. Of them, only Mt. Vernon rye is currently out of production. The rest are still going, even if some of them are limping along. National Distillers didn’t fare so well; the Beam company bought its assets in 1987.

Don Draper’s no-nonsense old-fashioned for two

I have no idea why I have to special-order Myers Platinum Rum in Providence, but four liquor stores I checked didn’t have it. Installment 3 of the Month of Rum is delayed until after my order arrives on Friday, which in all practicality means until Tuesday of next week. Sorry, rum chums. Meanwhile, rye.

If you’re not caught up on Mad Men, you might want to stop reading right now.

SPOILERS

It happens to all of us, eventually. You’ll be at the country club, at a party hosted by your boss, who’s in the midst of a humiliating midlife crisis. He’ll be the fool in blackface, serenading his new bride, who’s 30 years his junior. Disgusted, you’ll walk away and seek out another old-fashioned. Alas, no bartender will be on duty, and the famous hotelier who’s rooting around behind the bar will declare that he’s on the same mission as you, but to his dismay, there’s no bourbon.

With a James Bondian flourish, you’ll leap over the bar, rummage a bit, and find some good Old Overholt. You’ll take a couple of glasses, drop a sugar cube in each, and dash in some bitters. While the bitters soften the sugar cubes, you’ll find any old tall glass behind the bar and fill it about halfway with ice. Free-pour the rye over that, open a bottle of soda water, and splash some in. Muddle the sugar cubes. Roughly thrust a barspoon up and down in the tall glass three times, and then pour the drink, ice included, half into one glass and half into the other.

You’ll drop a wedge of lemon into each glass, then, but you won’t bother stirring the sugar into the drink, probably because you’ll be making out with someone else’s spouse by the time you’d reach the sugary sludge. And you’ll have yourself an old-fashioned rye cocktail. Hand one off to the hotelier and drink up.

At least that’s what you’d do if you were Don Draper, ad man. If you’re Michael Dietsch, sad man, you’ll scratch your head and laugh at how slapdash it all is. And then you’ll ask yourself two questions:

  1. Is a drink made this way any good?
  2. Just what kind of Old Overholt was Don Draper drinking anyway?

As to the first, well, I’m not sure. We don’t have any Old Overholt around, and either no one in Providence is ordering it, or there’s a shortage or something. The one place that reliably has it, hasn’t had it in over a month. I can get Beam Rye, Wild Turkey Rye, and, as I found out today, (ri)1, but not Overholt. I mixed it with the bird. Because the drink is barely stirred, and therefore barely diluted, it was strong. Not unpleasant, but nothing I’d want to drink several of in a day. Now you’re probably saying, “Wait a minute, Dietsch. Turkey’s 101 proof. Of course it was strong! And it’s an unfair comparison, since Overholt is 80. What gives, moron?”

Well, here’s what gives. Today’s Old Overholt is not the same product it once was. Y’see, Old Overcoat used to be, in fact, a 100-proof spirit. And when I asked the rye geeks on eGullet when that changed, the drinks historian David Wondrich told me that Overholt was bottled in bond (at 100 proof) until at least 1980. Which means Don was certainly drinking some hardnosed, 100-proof whiskey, not today’s 80-proof number.

Cardiac glow

photograph by Jennifer Hess

There is something about an old-fashioned
That kindles a cardiac glow;
It is soothing and soft and impassioned
As a lyric by Swinburne or Poe.
There is something about an old-fashioned
When dusk has enveloped the sky,
And it may be the ice,
Or the pineapple slice*,
But I strongly suspect it’s the rye.

–From “A Drink with Something in It,” by Ogden Nash

*Dear God, no.

Dear God, yes.

Cleanse me with hyssop

You might remember from my recent Amaro post that Jen and I picked up a couple of herbs at the farmer’s market–lemon balm and anise hyssop. I wanted to use both herbs in cocktails; I muddled the lemon balm, but with the anise hyssop, I chose to go a different direction.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that anise hyssop bears distinctive notes of anise in its aroma and taste. You probably also won’t be shocked to find that I chose to pair it with rye whiskey. After all, absinthe carries certain anise notes in its flavors, and absinthe pairs well with rye in such cocktails as the Sazerac. I didn’t, however, want to simply replicate the Sazerac using an infused rye.

Instead, I decided to poke around with another New Orleans classic, the Vieux Carré. This venerable cocktail calls for equal parts rye, cognac, and sweet vermouth, with a splash of Benedictine and dashes of Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters. I retained the basic flavors, but played around with the composition.

photograph by Jennifer Hess; oh, and I’m not really interested in taking the time to make my ice cubes crystal clear, so if cloudy ice offends your aesthetic sense, that’s your thing, not mine.

Neuf Carré

2 oz anise hyssop rye (recipe follows)
1 oz B&B
1 oz Carpano Antica vermouth
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Build in a double Old Fashioned glass over ice.

Anise Hyssop Rye

Wash and dry one bunch of anise hyssop. Place in a jar and add 4 oz. rye whiskey (I used Rittenhouse 100-proof). Steep for 24 hours, or until the anise-rye flavor pleases you. Strain, and discard the anise hyssop.