Rye whiskey has been on my radar since chow.com first posted “The New Whiskey Rebellion” last August. Since then, Saveur, seriouseats.com, and now The Times have run features on America’s original whiskey. So, why rye? Where there’s a food trend, I always have a theory…
First off, rye is a no-frills spirit, and in the age of reclaimed-wood(en) bars and exposed-filament Edison light bulbs, no-frills is definitively food-forward. Just as gin has swept the West Coast and boutique bottles of my favorite clear liquor have moved their way across the red states to land top shelf in New York watering-holes (in classic cocktails that taste of the metal from which they are made, rather than the simple syrup with which they are mixed) so too has Kentucky’s claim to fame made the pilgrimage east. Tastes are getting simpler, even as cocktail lists grow ever more complicated. Rye is the bartender’s response.
Tough. Potent. Straight. And a far cry from its bastard cousin bourbon, a sweeter, smoother alternative and America’s preferred whiskey since Prohibition. Rye has always been how I take my pastrami, and now, it’s also how I take my manhattans (on the rocks, with a twist, of course)!
this week: Perfect Manhattan @ Bobo
Quite possibly the most flawless thing on the menu: Rittenhouse Rye, Carpano Antica, Noilly Prat, and Bitters
this season: Red Hook Rye @ LeNell’s
The ideal gift for a Rye aficionado, made locally out of imported Kentucky barrels by LeNell Smothers at her whiskey-centric liquor shop in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
anytime you can get it: Rye Witch @ PDT (Please Don’t Tell)
I’m telling: Get this cocktail, if you can get a reservation. Written House Rye, Strega (golden herbal liquor flavored with 70 spices including saffron), Sherry, and Orange Bitters