Monday, August 4, 2008

The return of rye

A bar without rye whiskey is like a story without action.

As I explain in this week's LUPEC Boston cocktail column in the Weekly Dig, rye has evolved from a nearly defunct, old-man drink to a much sought-after spirit by men and broads alike, thanks to the revival of classic cocktails. The "old fashioned" Old Fashioned (which I mention in the column), the Scoff Law, the Saratoga, the Old Pal and, of course, the original Manhattan -- all get their personality from rye whiskey, the drier, spicier counterpart to bourbon. The Ladies of LUPEC Boston are known to knock back a rye drink or two at our monthly meetings and our favorite local bars.

Wanna know more about rye? Here are a few fun facts:
  • U.S. law mandates that rye whiskey be made with at least 51 percent rye (though most are made with 65 percent or more). The rest of the grain bill usually consists of corn and malted barley.
  • Rye whiskey is America's oldest whiskey. George Washington distilled it.
  • Rye whiskey, in its early days, was produced in the Northeast, particularly Pennsylvania and Maryland. Most of the Northeast distilleries closed during Prohibition, and today rye is primarily produced by the Kentucky distilleries that make bourbon.
  • The "whiskey" in the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 refers to rye. Western Pennsylvania farmers who distilled rye protested an excise tax on their product so fervently that President George Washington had to deploy a militia to quell the uprising.
  • Rock and Rye is a rye-based liqueur flavored with rock candy and citrus fruits.
Check out these two articles on rye whiskey: All but lost, rye is revived as the next boutique find (NYT) and Rye, resurrected (SF Chronicle).


seth said...

great, now I need a Sazerac!!!

tangerineomine said...

George Washington still distills rye (well, his estate, anyway).