Five Things: The Best Rye Whiskey Cocktails You’ve Never Tried

Your home bar skills should be coming along nicely after almost 12 months of restrictions, but rye whiskey is still something of an unknown to many. It’s not a bourbon, and distinct to a Scotch, but works as well as either of them whether used in cocktails or poured straight.

It’s the former we’re delving into here, with five fantastic, varied cocktails using the very finest rye whiskies as a base, including newcomer Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye. There’s something for everybody here, from dark and intense flavours for a cold, stormy night, to lightly sparkling romantic options perfect for yet another date night at home.

Rye Whiskey Cocktails include Black Manhattan
Black Manhattan

Swapping out the sweet vermouth of a Manhattan for a bitter liqueur is the basis of the Black Manhattan, but mixing in some chocolate bitters transforms the classic cocktail into something luxurious and decadent.

We used the citrussy Averna amaro alongside Catoctin Creek Roundstone 80 Proof rye whiskey, which added a nice herbal touch with some complex bitter notes. This intensely dark drink hits the spot every time, especially for chocolate lovers.

  • 60 ml Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye Whisky
  • 15 ml Amaro liqueurs (Don Ciccio, Averno, Ramazotti, Cynar, Campari, etc.)
  • 15 ml sweet vermouth (Carpano Antica, Vermo, etc.)
  • 2-3 dashes of Aztec or chocolate bitters
  • Maraschino cherry

Combine all the ingredients over ice, stir, and then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry and enjoy.

Rye Whiskey Cocktails include Gold Rush
Gold Rush

Not far off a Whiskey Sour, the Gold Rush was created at the award-winning Milk & Honey in New York, so it’s no surprise it’s got a sweet kick to it.

Picking a bottle of British Adnams Rye Malt Whisky, the slightly spicy flavour with sweet cinnamon on the nose blends perfectly with the sweetness of the honey.

  • 60 ml Adnams Rye Malt Whisky
  • 25 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 25 ml honey syrup

Shake all the ingredients with ice before straining into an ice-filled Old Fashioned glass. Making your own honey syrup is easy, too – simply mix three parts honey with one part water.

Cava & Cran Fizz

Mixing whiskey with bubbles? It’s a brave move, but Sagamore Spirit Rye Whiskey makes a great base for the drink, adding a rich spice that works well with the zesty citrus of the Cava and sweetness of cranberry syrup.

Pair this cocktail with a classic charcuterie board, especially if it includes a mild cheddar or a goat cheese, to release the vanilla and caramel notes of the whiskey.

  • 50 ml Sagamore Spirit Rye Whiskey
  • 100 ml Cava
  • 15 ml lime juice
  • 25 ml spiced cranberry syrup

Making this couldn’t be easier. Simply pour all the ingredients into a glass and enjoy. If you want to make your own spiced cranberry syrup, mix equal parts water, sugar, and fresh cranberries in a pot, adding a cinnamon stick and rosemary sprig for every 100g of fruit. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes, before chilling and straining the mix.

Rye Whiskey Cocktails include Sarezac
New Orleans Sazerac

You can’t make a proper Sazerac with bourbon – it absolutely has to be rye whiskey in these cocktails, but there’s nothing to say it’s got to be a traditional US-made drink.

Using a measure or two of Helsinki Whiskey Rye Malt, distilled and bottled in Finland, brings some depth to the drink, with the expected caramel and vanilla being joined by coffee and cocoa notes. Don’t skip the Absinthe step though, thinking it’s not necessary, as it’s the making of the drink.

  • 100 ml Helsinki Rye Whiskey
  • 25 ml simple syrup
  • 4-5 dashes Peychaud bitters
  • Absinthe

Don’t take shortcuts on this. Chill an Old Fashioned glass with iced water while you prepare the drink, muddling the Peychaud bitters with the simple syrup before adding the whiskey and some ice and stirring the mix. Empty the chilling glass of its contents and swirl a measure of Absinthe around the coat the inside completely. Discard this (or strain it into a shot glass for later) and then strain the Sazarec into the now empty and coated glass.

Balsamic Berry Old Fashioned

I love an Old Fashioned and take great care to ensure I use the finest whiskey I’ve got available, and oddly enjoy each step in the process of making what is the perfect drink.

There are shortcuts you can take but doing it right starts with picking the best base. It’s back to the Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye for this one, but the Cask Proof expression – described by founder Scott Harris as “the best we make!” It’s delicious, dark, complex and ridiculously smooth, and almost feels like it’s wasted on a cocktail, but why skimp on something that’s so sumptuous?

  • 45 ml Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye Whisky
  • 15 ml aged balsamic vinegar
  • 15 ml cranberry juice
  • 15 ml berry syrup
  • 2 raspberries for garnish

Combine all ingredients over ice and stir in a rocks glass. Garnish with two raspberries. If you want to make your own berry syrup, put 180g of blackberries, 180g of raspberries, 125g of sugar and 250ml of water into a pan, bring it to a simmer for 10 minutes or so, puree the contents, and then strain. As a bonus, the syrup makes a great topping for ice cream!