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10 Best Rye Whiskey Brands for Sazerac Cocktails (2023)

Last Updated on December 30, 2022 by Lydia Martin

Hailing from New Orleans, Sazerac is considered one of the earliest recorded cocktails.

This timeless cocktail has multiple recipe variations, but rye whiskey greatly impacts its taste.

Although the Sazerac cocktail was originally partnered with cognac, it would stand out best with a bolder, flavorful profile and—a good quality rye whiskey.

But what’s the best rye for Sazerac? Keep reading.

Top 10 Rye Whiskeys for a Sazerac (Must-Have) 

10. Redemption Rye

hand holding bottle of Redemption Rye

Average Price: Around $29 for 750ml

Alcohol Content: 46%

Why We Like It:

With its 95% rye content, Redemption Rye whiskey has a potent character with big, spicy, complex flavors.

It’s inspired by pre-Prohibition recipes, having a distinctive rye-forward profile.

Redemption Rye has a great rye spice with a slight mint finish, ideal for creating bolder cocktails like Sazerac.

9. WhistlePig Rye Whiskey

man holding WhistlePig Rye Whiskey bottle

Average Price: Around $48 for 750ml

Alcohol Content: 48.28%

Why We Like It:

It’s one of the few brands that use 100% rye on its mash bill content. Whistlepig PiggyBack Rye has full spice and bold flavors.

This full rye whiskey is beautifully aged to a minimum of six years and proofed at 96.56, making it a strong bitter-sweet whiskey.

It’s a good value for a rye-forward whiskey with a higher ABV.

8. Old Forester Rye

close up shot of Old Forester Rye bottle

Average Price: Around $28 for 750ml

Alcohol Content: 50%

Why We Like It:

At 100-proof, Old Forester Rye has a rich rye spice with brown sugar aromas and a taste of black pepper with cinnamon.

It has a mash bill of 65% rye, 20% malted barley, and 15% corn.

Old Forester Rye’s generous percentage of malted barley brings additional floral aromas that balance the sharp edges of rye.

7. US 1 Kentucky Straight Rye

Michter's Straight Rye Whiskey Bottle

Average Price: Around $48 for 750ml

Alcohol Content: 42.4%

Why We Like It:

Every bottle of Mitcher’s US 1 Kentucky Straight Rye comes from a single barrel. Its rye whiskey is chill filtered before bottling to create a clear, extraordinary rye whiskey.

This rye whiskey has an enticing creamy texture on the palate but has a potent rye and spice flavor.

6. Bulleit Rye

close up image of Bulleit Rye Bottle

Average Price: Around $28 for 750ml

Alcohol Content: 45%

Why We Like It:

Bulleit Rye is straight rye with a traditional bold rye flavor, with hints of honey and vanilla. Its 90-proof bottle is made with 95% rye on its mash bill with 5% malted barley.

“Rye remains the fastest growing North American Whiskey segment…”

– Ed Bello, Bulleit Global Brand Director

Bulleit Rye has a character of unparalleled spice at a fair price. This high-rye whiskey is straightforward, has a minty palate, and creates a dry finish perfect for potent cocktails.

5. Willett Family Estate 2 YR

Willett 2 Year Rye Bottle and glass

Average Price: Around $59 for 750ml

Alcohol Content: 54.2%

Why We Like It:

This two-year-old cask-strength small-batch rye whiskey has a high value for its average price point on the market.

It has a bright-tasting profile with a good balance of sweet and spice notes. 

Each bottle has a hand-marked age statement and barrel number.

But unfortunately, each batch of this whiskey rarely exceeds hundreds of bottles, making its bottles harder to find.

4. Old Overholt Rye

man pouring Old Overholt Rye bottle on a glass

Average Price: Around $21 for 750ml

Alcohol Content: 40%

Why We Like It:

This famous rye whiskey is considered the oldest of the old. It is a relic rye whiskey that is non-chill filtered, resulting in a more robust and distinctive flavor.

Old Overholt is known for its versatility in cocktails, especially in making Manhattan and Sazerac.

3. George Dickel Rye Whisky

hand holding George Dickel Rye Whisky

Average Price: Around $22 for 750ml

Alcohol Content: 45%

Why We Like It:

George Dickel Rye is another high-rye whiskey having 95% rye on its mashbill.

This whiskey has a unique process of chilled charcoal-mellowed finish which balances the depth of the rye.

Its one-of-a-kind process makes it remarkably smooth, ideal for sipping or mixing cocktails.

2. Sazerac Rye 

Man holding bottle of Sazerac Straight Rye

Average Price: Around $29 for 750ml

Alcohol Content: 45%

Why We Like It:

Sazerac Rye is the whiskey that started it all. With its spiciness and subtly sweet and citrus notes, Sazerac Rye whiskey makes a perfect Sazerac cocktail.

Its 90-proof bottles offer a mellow rye spice that is delicious and approachable yet has a complex flavor that will greatly appeal to your palate.

1. Rittenhouse Rye

Rittenhouse Straight Rye Bottled In Bond Whiskey Bottle and a Glass on top of a Wooden Table

Average Price: Around $26 for 750ml

Alcohol Content: 50%

Why We Like It:

Rittenhouse Rye is a straight and bottle in bond rye whiskey with a distinct, robust profile.

It’s a solid budget rye for having a high proof of 100 aged four years in oak barrels. 

Although this whiskey has a strong spice aroma, its tasting notes make a bold cocktail like Old-Fashioned, Manhattan, or Sazerac.

Note: Average prices are from Drizly and Total Wine. It may vary depending on your liquor store.

FAQs

What is Sazerac Rye made of?

Sazerac Rye is made of mainly rye using the rye mash bill ratio of the Buffalo Trace. Its exact mash bill content is confidential.
 
But according to law, all rye whiskey, including Sazerac Rye, should at least have 51% rye on its mash bill. [1]

What makes Sazerac Rye different?

Despite the strong peppery bite and spicy nuance of most rye whiskeys, Sazerac Rye is more different because of its mellow spice-tasting profile and smooth finish.

Is rye better than cognac for Sazerac?

Yes, rye is better than cognac for Sazerac because its spicy and more flavorful notes shine, especially when making concoctions. Budget-wise, rye is cheaper than cognacs.

Sazeracs were originally made with cognac, but after it got grape phylloxera in France [2], people substituted it with rye whiskey and discovered a more balanced tasting profile. 

In Summary

A good Sazerac cocktail must have quality rye whiskey because an excellent quality rye whiskey can make Sazerac, the close cousin of Old-Fashioned, shine even better.

You can start making your Sazerac cocktail with budget-friendly rye whiskeys like Old Overholt and George Dickel or choose a full 100% rye whiskey like WhistlePig.

But if you’re into a stronger cocktail with a potent alcohol taste and high ABV, try making one with Old Forester or Rittenhouse. 

References:

  1. https://www.seriouseats.com/guide-to-rye-whiskey-cocktail-101-basics-what-is-rye-how-is-it-made-brands# 
  2. https://www.npr.org/2008/06/26/91912549/new-orleans-declares-sazerac-its-cocktail-of-choice 

Lydia Martin

Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds! Contact at [email protected] or learn more about us here.

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