DC Drinks

Reviews, rantlets and ribald on all things alcoholic.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Why Rye?: A Brief Guide To One of America's First Spirits

When I first tried rye, I was amazed that there weren't more companies producing it. For a short time after my first sip, I almost felt guilty for thinking it might be better than the mighty bourbon. And I've been hooked since.

Straight Rye Whiskey must be at least 51% distilled from rye whereas bourbon must be at least 51% corn. But there's a world of difference between the two. And I'm not just referring to feeling like you're a cynical cop in a Raymond Chandler novel when sipping rye. Rye has a distinct spicier, drier flavor than bourbon---with a faint leathery nose to it. It's an excellent choice for a cold winter's night when you're not feeling up for scotch on the rocks for the umpteenth time.

Since rye isn't widely available, there are only a few brands in a decent price range. Wild Turkey and Jim Beam make bottles at around $20 (750ML). The late, great Sid Drazin swore by Old Overholt rye, but I'm not crazy about it (even though apparently it's the best choice for the classic Sazerac cocktail). I would recommend staying the hell away from Pikesville Rye, which is bland to the point of being an insult to the spirit.

And don't pack the old fashioned glass with ice, my friend. You'll get the best flavor from a two finger pour and one to three cubes.


At 8:04 PM, Blogger Random Libertarian said...

Like rye, I myself have a faint leathery nose.

Can you just walk into any bar and ask for "rye"? I don't picture that being possible. Am I wrong? There is a deli on Columbia Rd. that serves sandwiches on rye, but I think that's something else altogether.

At 9:10 PM, Blogger Lonnie Bruner said...

The proper way to do it would be to go into a bar, and say, "Hey barkeep. Gimme a glass of rye, straight up." That would be the film noir way to do it anyway ...

At 8:59 PM, Blogger paul said...

If you come across Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye, I highly recommend it--it's not cheap (around $35 for 750ml, depending on where you find it), but a Sazerac or Manhattan made with it is memorable (especially if you have some real-deal absinthe to coat the glass in a Sazerac).

Nice site--

At 12:39 AM, Anonymous DHG said...

I like Rye, always have. Try Michter's Straight Rye Whiskey, it's heavenly @ 84.8 PROOF. DHG


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