According to recent reports, we’re drinking more than ever.
Especially when it comes to the hard stuff.
So for our newest column, Pick Your Poison, we’re asking the world’s best bartenders to help us stock our spirits cabinet, one spirit at a time.
Up first: the subtle wonders of rye — bourbon’s spicier, more complex cousin.
To get our rye fix, we talked to Johnny Swet, Head Mixologist of The Skylark and partner at the rooftop bar JIMMY (both based in NYC). Swet is possibly New York’s most inventive drinks slinger: he’s made the only pumpkin cocktail we ever liked, as well as deconstructed Fireball into its own (quite tasty) cocktail and created a potato vodka/bacon/truffle concoction because, hey, why not?
Turns out, he likes rye for its complexity.
“Hands down, rye whiskey is what I drink, almost exclusively,” says Swet. “I think what makes rye special is its dry, spicy notes — which it achieves because it has to have at least 51% rye grain in the mash, unlike bourbon, which is a sweeter mix of corn and other grains. I love the subtle complexity it gives in a cocktail. Or it works just simply neat.”
Here are his recommendations, all available for order on Caskers.
“A favorite of bartenders and mixologists. Great price point, nice finish and dry, mixes well in cocktails, and bottled in bond so it’s 100 proof ... meaning one hell of a kick. Big plus: you look cool ordering it and the bartender will think you’re in the industry, so they’ll probably give you a heavy pour.”
“Aged six years, the mash bill is 95% rye, which is pretty high (hence the spicy notes). Perfect in a Manhattan, too: a lesser rye would get lost in the sweet vermouth.”
Dad's Hat Pennsylvania Rye
“I was born in Pennsylvania, so I'll admit I'm a little partial to this one. What's cool about this whiskey is that it's 80% white rye, which gives it a peppery taste. It also has 20% barley in the mash, so there’s also a nice funk (in a good way). It’s 90 proof, so it’s no weakling ... and kind of a cool, because it’s lesser known, so in front of your drinking buddies you'll sound like an aficionado.”
WhistlePig Straight Rye
“One of the top dogs in rye whiskey — because, to start, it’s 100% rye. If you're gonna sip neat or on the rocks, this is it. Higher price point, but well worth it. At 100 proof it’s somehow incredibly smooth with a dry caramel finish.”
Hochstadter's Slow and Low
“I call this the gateway rye, or maybe the training wheels into brown spirits. Infused with citrus peels and rock candy, this sweet concoction is really more of a liquor — but at more than 51% rye and 92 proof, this is not a sissy whiskey. Kinda of a cool story: this dates back to Prohibition, when the whiskey was rough and they would serve it alongside rock candy to sweeten the subpar hooch, hence the name Rock & Rye.” Also fun for shots to go with a crisp pilsner.”