While scotch brings the smoke and bourbon offers toasty notes of charred oak, rye is the brown spirit with spice. Though we love to sip it neat or on the rocks, these cocktails elevate rye to greater heights by complementing its zesty flavor profile with things like fresh citrus, liqueurs and vermouth.
5 Best Rye Cocktails
This classic originated as a brandy-based drink when New Orleans apothecary Antoine Peychaud invented it at the Sazerac Coffee House in the mid-1800s. According to cocktail historian David Wondrich, when a severe cognac shortage hit in the 1870s, bartenders turned to rye as an alternative base. The addition of absinthe and Peychaud's bitters gives it an aromatic hit of anise, while the rye comes in swinging with a powerful bite.
Although the Whiskey Smash is beloved by seasoned whiskey drinkers, it’s also a great gateway cocktail for those looking to dive into the world of brown spirits. In its basic form, the light, refreshing concoction combines rye with lemon juice, simple syrup and mint, but we suggest smashing your favorite seasonal fruit into the mix as well.
A simple twist on the Negroni, Harry McElhone of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris invented the Boulevardier in 1927 when he swapped out gin for whiskey in the classic bittersweet aperitif. The resulting cocktail is deeper than its gin-based brother in both flavor and color.
Perhaps the most well-known drink, second only to the Martini, this rye-based cocktail is one of the true classics. Like the island whose name it shares, the drink is sweet, strong, eternally cool and retains a dangerous edge. Make sure to use quality spirits and brandied cherries to do the Manhattan justice.
Invented at the Monteleone Hotel in 1938, this cocktail is as strong as it is delicious. In it, a mix of rye and sweet vermouth is joined by cognac and Bénédictine, which cut through the spice and give the Vieux Carre its rich, complex flavor.
This take on the Manhattan subs sweet vermouth for dry and adds a measure of fragrant maraschino liqueur. Although the recipe calls for Amer Picon, a bittersweet aperitif that can only be found in Europe, substituting Ramazotti or Amaro CioCiaro makes for an equally delicious beverage.
Named for a waterfront neighborhood in Brooklyn, this drink is an amalgam of two classics: the Manhattan and the Brooklyn. Created by former Milk & Honey bartender Enzo Errico, this modern classic deserves a turn in your cocktail rotation.
Punt e Mes
Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh revived this 1930s libation in his 2009 book Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails with one simple change: a measure of raspberry syrup instead of grenadine. No matter which recipe you decide to use, this cocktail is a spicy, sweet tart knockout.
This take on the Whiskey Sour is made with a refreshing mix of rye whiskey, orange juice, fresh lemon and grenadine. It’s perfect for any season or occasion. We recommend making your own hibiscus grenadine instead of using the generic store-bought stuff.