Big, bold, and brazen, rye whisky is a confident, spirited liquor with enough rich spiciness to enliven any cocktail it comes across. Try it with ginger ale in a simple Highball, combine it with sweet vermouth in a classic Manhattan, or throw a rock candy into the mix to make a funky Rock and Rye. If you're looking for some new ways to enjoy your favorite tipple, here are 20 rye whisky cocktails to try.
1. Rock and Rye
Long prescribed as a cure-all for flues and colds of all varieties, Rock and Rye is a fun, fruity tipple with a good kick of spice and sugar. Start by infusing 1 bottle of rye with a 6-inch string rock candy, 1 clove, and 1 teaspoon of horehound. Leave for 3 days in a cool, dark spot. Add 2 orange slices, 2 lemon slices, 1 dried apricot, and 1 cinnamon stick, and leave for a further 1 - 2 days, depending on preference. Once the drink has reached the desired taste, strain to remove the spices and fruits and rebottle the whisky. Enjoy on the rocks.
2. New York Sour
Invented sometime in the late 1880s in Chicago, the New York version of the Whiskey Sour combines the classic recipe of whiskey, lemon juice, sugar, and egg white with a touch of red wine for added flair. You can use any whisky you like, but there's something extra decadent about the jammy notes of the red wine combined with the spicy notes of rye.
If you can't resist a Negroni, don't miss this rich, full-bodied variation. Created by Erskine Gwynne in Paris in the 1920s, it's made by combining 1 1/4 ounce rye with 1 ounce Campari and 1-ounce sweet vermouth in a mixer with ice. Once chilled, decant into a rock glass, add ice, and garnish with a twist of orange.
4. Red Hook
With a name taken from a neighborhood in Brooklyn and an ingredient list of rye, maraschino liqueur, and Punt e Mes, Red Hook is a complex, rich tipple with a perfectly balanced bitterness that's hard to resist. Combine 2 ounces rye whiskey with 1/2 ounce maraschino liqueur and 1/2 ounce Punt e Mes in a mixer with ice. Stir until well chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry to serve.
5. Morning Glory
A seven ingredient cocktail might stretch your drink cabinet to breaking point, but it's worth stocking up when it results in something as lip-smackingly good as the Morning Glory. Combine 1-ounce rye whiskey, 1-ounce cognac, 1 teaspoon orange curaçao liqueur, 1 dash absinthe, 1 teaspoon simple syrup, and 2 dashes aromatic bitters in a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass filled with ice and add a twist of lemon as garnish.
The Scofflaw was reportedly made by a bartender named Jock at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris during the 1920s. The original recipe calls for 1/3 rye whiskey, 1/3 French vermouth, 1/6 lemon juice, and 1/6 grenadine, but a dash of orange bitters rarely goes amiss either.
7. Saratoga Cocktail
Brandy and whiskey go together like love and marriage. Here, we find the classic duo snuggling up to sweet vermouth in a menage a trois that's simple, elegant, and a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. The recipe couldn't be easier: simply add 1-ounce brandy with 1-ounce rye whiskey, 1-ounce sweet vermouth, and 2 dashes bitters to a cocktail mixer filled with ice. Stir until chilled then decant into a cocktail glass. Serve with a twist of lemon.
8. Remember the Maine
“Remember the Maine, to Hell with Spain!” was once a call to arms during the Spanish-American War. These days, it's a cocktail, and a very scrumptious one at that. A rich, herbaceous blend of rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and cherry liqueur, it's got a similar flavor profile to the Manhattan but is set apart by the aniseed notes of absinthe. Start by rolling a small amount of absinthe around a glass to coat the sides. Discard the excess and set the glass to one side. Combine 2 ounces rye whiskey with 3/4 ounce sweet vermouth and 2 teaspoons cherry liqueur in an iced mixing glass and stir until chilled. Strain into the prepared glass, garnish with a brandied cherry, and enjoy.
9. Whiskey Smash
In truth, you can use any whiskey you like for a Whiskey Smash (its creator, Jerry Thomas, didn't state a preference in his seminal recipe collection “The Bartenders Guide"), but rye is the perfect match for this close cousin of the mint julep. The perfect thirst quencher, it's a minty, fruity sensation. To make, add 5 leaves of spearmint and 1/4 lemon, cut into 3, to a cocktail mixer and muddle to extract the juices. Add 1-ounce simple syrup and 2 ounces rye whiskey to the mixer, add a handful of ice, and shake. Strain into a glass, add ice, and garnish simply with a mint sprig.
A blast from the past of the best kind, this bittersweet dream from the 1930s traditionally blends rye whiskey with grapefruit juice and grenadine. To make, combine 2 ounces of rye whiskey with 1 ounce of freshly squeezed yellow grapefruit juice, and 1/2 ounce of grenadine in a mixer with ice. Stir until chilled then strain into a cocktail glass. For a change of pace (and a pretty pink glow), swap the grenadine for raspberry syrup and garnish with skewered raspberries.
Canada makes some great rye, and what better way to try it than with a complex, wonderfully intriguing Toronto cocktail? A variation on the Old Fashioned that uses the bitterness of Fernet-Branca to add a tempting new twist to a familiar favorite, it's a dry, rich little number that, once tasted, is rarely forgotten. To try it for yourself, you'll need 2 ounces Canadian rye whisky, 1/4 ounce Fernet-Branca, 1/4 ounce simple syrup, and 2 dashes of Angostura bitters. Add the ingredients to a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass. Add an orange twist as garnish.
As The Spruce notes, New Orleans has long been a hub for rye whiskey cocktails, and the Sazerac is one of the classics. A close relative of the Old Fashioned, the drink has been a favorite with rye whiskey lovers since the 1930s. Making the cocktail is a ritual that's almost as enjoyable as drinking it. To try it for yourself, add 1/2 ounce of absinthe to a chilled old-fashioned glass and swirl it around to coat the sides of the glass. Discard any excess. In a separate mixing glass, make a sugar syrup by muddling 1 sugar cube with 1/2 teaspoon cold water with 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters and 2 dashes Angostura bitters. Add 1 1/4 ounces rye whiskey, 1 1/4 ounces cognac, and a handful of ice. Stir until chilled, strain into the first glass, and garnish with lemon peel.
13. Waldorf Cocktail
You're probably already familiar with the Waldorf Salad, but the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel didn't just bless the world with the perfect light lunch. The Waldorf Cocktail is an equally tasty treat to linger over, with a sweet but snappy combination of rye and vermouth and the faintest aniseed twang of absinthe. To make, swirl 1/4 ounce absinthe around a chilled cocktail glass to coat the sides. Discard the excess. Stir 2 ounces of rye whiskey, 3/4 ounce sweet vermouth, and 2 dashes bitters in a mixing glass full of ice until chilled. Strain into the prepared glass.
14. Ward Eight
Boston has contributed many great things to the world, not least the Ward Eight cocktail. According to legend (or maybe just Wikipedia), the tipple was involved in 1899 at the bar of the Gilded Age restaurant Locke-Ober. Other reports pin its origins on the abandoned Quincy House, while others still suggest it comes from New York. Regardless of the where's and the when's, it's a delicious, ruby red delight, particularly when it's decorated with two glossy, speared cherries. To make, stir together 2 ounces rye whiskey, 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice, 1/2 ounce fresh orange juice, and 1 teaspoon grenadine in a mixing glass with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and decorate with cherries.
If you didn't think rye whisky and banana belonged in the same glass, prepare to be converted. The Bananarac is an ingenious update on the Sazerac that uses banana liqueur to give a tropical twist to the New Orleans classic. The drink was crafted by Natasha David of bar consulting company, You and Me Cocktails. While David recommends Old Overholt rye whisky and Tariquet VSOP Armagnac as the foundation, feel free to substitute with your favorites.
The one element of the drink that can't be substituted is the Giffard Banane du Brésil liqueur, a truly unique blend of macerated bananas and cognac that few, if any, other banana liquors come close to matching in quality. To make the drink, Liquor.com recommends rinsing a chilled glass with a small amount of absinthe. Discard the excess. Add 1 ounce rye whiskey, 1 ounce Armagnac, 1/2 ounce Giffard Banane du Brésil liqueur, 1/2 teaspoon demerara simple syrup, and 1 dash aromatic bitters to an ice-filled mixing glass and stir to chill. Strain the mixture into the first glass and add a lemon glass for garnish.
16. Monte Casino
This brightly colored cocktail from New York City bartender Damon Dyer is like a drop of liquid sunshine in a glass. To try it for yourself, combine equal measurements (3/4 of an ounce should do for one person) of rye whiskey, Benedictine, Yellow Chartreuse, and freshly squeezed lemon juice to a mixer with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add a twist of lemon for garnish.
Cocktails don't have to be complicated. The Highball uses just two ingredients but tastes divine. During its early days, it was made using rye whiskey and plain soda water, but these days, ginger ale tends to be the most popular choice of mixer. To make, add a handful of ice to a highball glass. Pour over 2 ounces of whiskey and top with 4 to 6 ounces of ginger ale. If you want to give a touch of light sweetness to the finished article, add a drop or two of club soda.
18. Black Manhattan
This intense, bittersweet take on the classic Manhattan was invented by bartender Todd Smith in San Francisco’s Bourbon & Branch in 2005. Thanks to the addition of Averna amaro and a second type of sweet vermouth, the cocktail is heavy, more intense, and deeper than you'd expect of a Manhattan, with delightfully complex herbal and burnt sugar notes from the amaro. To make, combine 2 ounces of rye whiskey with 1 ounce of Averna amaro, 1 dash of Angostura bitters, and 1 dash of orange bitters in a mixing glass with ice and stir till chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry.
19. Vieux Carre
First created back in the 1930s in New Orleans, the Vieux Carre might have a straightforward ingredient list - rye, cognac, Bénédictine, sweet vermouth, and bitters - but its flavor profile is anything but simple. To make this intriguing, complex cocktail for yourself, add 3/4 ounce rye whiskey, 3/4 ounce cognac, 3/4 ounce sweet vermouth, 2 teaspoons Benedictine liqueur, and 4 dashes of bitters to an iced mixing glass and stir till chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass and add a lemon twist to garnish.
When it comes to iconic drinks, they don't get much bigger than the Manhattan, a staple of bars and cocktail lounges around the world. As The Spruce Eats says, the Manhattan is to whiskey what the martini is to gin, and should be considered a must-try for any rye whiskey aficionados. To make, add 2 ounces rye whiskey, 1-ounce sweet vermouth, and 2 dashes aromatic bitters to a mixing glass with ice. Stir until well chilled, strain into a cocktail glass, and add a cherry for garnish.
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Written by Lily Wordsmith
Read more posts by Lily Wordsmith