In having to choose between the many varieties of distilled grain alcohols, rye is my favorite by far. I suppose it stems from my love of intense and savory flavors. While most kids were high on PB&J on Wonderbread, I wanted my roast beef on caraway-studded rye bread with a thin coat of spicy brown mustard and a side of garlic dill pickle (hungry yet?). I still love that meal. When I started drinking adult beverages, and learned that rye is an option, I embarked on a journey. Though bourbon is nice (though for me too sweet), and Single-malt Scotch quite divine (though for me usually too expensive to buy a bottle that’s old enough to vote), rye offers me the quality, flavor, and affordability I look for in a finely crafted spirit. Just like scotch and bourbon, rye comes in many varieties. The key, if you like the spicy, earthy, and more savory qualities of the spirit, is to find bottles with a higher rye content. This might take a little research, but each brand usually provides ratios on their website.
Distillers can blend rye with corn, barley, or even wheat, each other ingredient adding something to the mix. Also like scotch, separate batches are often blended together. In the case of High West’s Double Rye!, a 2 year old with a 95% rye/5% barley melds with a 16 year old 53% rye/37% corn blend. The young rye provides the spice and bite, the older provides sweetness and smoothness that tames some of the bite.
My favorite spirit also goes into my favorite cocktail, the Manhattan. Two parts rye to one part sweet vermouth gets added to a dash of bitters and finished with a maraschino cherry. Splitting the vermouth into equal parts sweet and dry results is what the bar industry calls a “perfect” Manhattan. In a world that seems to favor the bigger, the better, and the new, this classic cocktail agrees with my sensibilities and palate. If it was good enough for my 93 year old grandmother, who had one every day at 5pm, it’s good enough for me now! She’s since moved on to the great Bar in the sky, sharing a table with my grandfather and his beer, but I still honor her memory with every Manhattan I consume.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s edition, and my first rye review.