When you drink rye, you are drinking American history.

Rye is not just a type of whiskey; it’s the whiskey that the gunslingers demanded when their spurs clink-clink-clinked into the saloon. It’s the whiskey that George Washington made in his home distillery. And, it’s the whiskey that Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys mixed with hard cider in their Stone Fences, before their assault on Fort Ticonderoga. Bottom line: Rye means business and you will be taken seriously if you drink it.

Rye’s inherently spicy profile is infinitely mixable, lending a bit of “something-something” to traditional drinks like the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned. As Ethan and his boys will tell you, it’s impossible to make a Stone Fence without it. (Use Bourbon and New Englanders might consider it a hanging offence.) And, in any version of a whiskey sour out there, rye will take the drink to a new level of complexity. Here, then, are some familiar and not so familiar cocktails where rye takes center stage.

Some ryes to try: Lot 40, Old Overholt, Rittenhouse (the bartender’s workhorse), Bulleit Rye, Templeton, Twelve Five Rye

The Blinker

The Blinker

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The Blinker

This drink harkens back to the 1930s, appearing in Patrick Gavin Duffy’s The Official Mixer’s Manual. It originally had grenadine in it, but Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh replaced it with raspberry syrup and, as he says, “never looked back.”

Adapted by Ted Haigh in Vintage Cocktails & Forgotten Spirits

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Rye
  • 1 oz. Grapefruit Juice
  • 1 tsp. Raspberry Syrup

Preparation: Shake in an ice-filled cocktail shaker and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon slice or twist.


Old Fashioned

Old Fashioned

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Old Fashioned

It’s a classic for a reason. Depending on what whisk(e)y you choose, you will create a markedly different drink. Bourbon, for instance, is perceptibly sweeter. With rye, the rich spice notes come out, complemented by the angostura bitters. Using a raw sugar cube will deepen the flavor, adding some molasses notes.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Rye
  • 1 Sugar Cube
  • 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
  • Teaspoon Water
  • Orange Twist, for Garnish

Preparation: Place the sugar cube in a rocks glass, dash the bitters on it, and add water. Muddle to combine. Add ice cubes and rye. Garnish with orange slice if desired.


Saratoga

Saratoga

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Saratoga

Basically a Manhattan variation, the Saratoga is a serious drink that should please both the rye and the brandy lover. Choose a sweet vermouth that is complementary, not competitive with the two spirits in play.

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz. Cognac or Cognac-style Brandy
  • 1 oz. Rye
  • 1 oz. Sweet Vermouth
  • 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters

Preparation: Put all the ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass and stir until well chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish as desired.


Stone Fence

Stone Fence

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Stone Fence

If it was good enough for the boys from Vermont before they led their charge, it’s good enough for us. Think of it as a Mule with Cider instead of ginger beer. Who knows exactly when during Colonial times the Stone Fence evolved, but it’s safe to say that where rye and apples coexisted, a drink was sure to follow.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Rye
  • Hard Cider, to Top

Preparation: In an ice-filled Collins glass, add rye and cider. Stir to combine. Garnish as desired.


Ward Eight

Ward Eight

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Ward Eight

There are numerous variations on the Ward Eight, which is essentially a modified whiskey sour. In this one, the grenadine substitutes for the usual simple syrup, and orange juice subs for half the lemon juice. The Ward Eight was born in late 19th century Boston and most likely takes its name from the city’s eight political districts, known as wards.

From the Savoy Cocktail Book

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 oz. Rye
  • 3/4 oz. Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 3/4 oz. Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
  • 1 tsp. Grenadine
  • Lemon Twist for Garnish
  • Cherry for Garnish

Preparation: Place all ingredients in a mixing glass full of ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a coupe or cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon peel and cherry if desired.