The Ultimate Rye Cocktail

Photos by Margaret Houston

Experience the rye revolution with this Remember the Maine recipe

Before bourbon reigned supreme in the South, there was rye, the original American whiskey. Made with a mash that’s at least 51 percent rye instead of corn, it goes all the way back to George Washington, who distilled his own at Mount Vernon. But in the years following Prohibition, as bourbon’s popularity began to blossom, rye was largely forgotten.

Not anymore.

Thanks to a renewed interest in pre-Prohibition cocktail recipes (not to mention several new premium ryes on the market), bartenders in the South and beyond are rediscovering the whiskey’s unique flavor. Brooks Reitz, a Kentucky native and now mixologist extraordinaire at FIG in Charleston, South Carolina, often recommends a Manhattan with rye to guests, and he’s particularly fond of a long lost classic—Remember the Maine (named for the American battleship sunk in Havana harbor prior to the Spanish-American War). “I enjoy making cocktails with rye because its bold, spicy character stands up well to mixing,” he says. “It’s not as soft and round as bourbon. Think of it like the difference between the sweet flavor of wheat bread compared to the bold flavor of rye bread.”

To experience the rye revolution (and remember the Maine yourself), try the recipe below.

Remember the Maine

1 1/2 oz. rye whiskey (Reitz uses Bulleit Rye)
3/4 oz. Carpano Antica Formula sweet vermouth
1/4 oz. Cherry Heering
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Stir over ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass that has been “rinsed” in absinthe.

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