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How to Drink Rye Whiskey: Complete Guide (2022 Updated)

Last Updated on August 26, 2022 by Lydia Martin

If you’re new to drinking whiskey and came across a bottle of rye, you may wonder if there are ground rules on how to consume it. Is rye whiskey meant to be drunk neat, on the rocks, or as a cocktail?

Here’s an introductory guide on how to drink rye whiskey so you can drink it like a pro. 

4 Ways To Drink Rye Whiskey (Like A Pro)

4 Ways To Drink Rye Whiskey (Like A Pro)

1. Know Different Rye Whiskey Styles

Rye Whiskey Brands on desk

There are no ground rules for drinking rye whiskey. However, you must know the different rye whiskey styles because not all rye whiskeys are created the same. 

Rye has a wide range of flavors, from American and Canadian rye whiskey to high rye bourbon. American whiskeys consist of Indiana, Maryland, and Pennsylvania styles.

Knowing the percentage of rye per style can easily help you decide how to consume it with utmost enjoyment. 

2. Taste It In Style

Taste It In Style

Remember that it’s whiskey, not soda, so don’t chug it; instead, appreciate it first.

Our sense of smell is 80% responsible for our taste. However, do not shove your nose straight into the glass. 

Delicately sniff the glass to prepare your palate. Take a small sip before you go all in, work it around your mouth, then swallow it slowly. 

3. Separate Distillers from Non-Distiller Producers

For the past few years, rye has been sourced by different brands, and dozens of brands have come up with aged rye whiskey similar to mash bill and production of MGP in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. 

Don’t get us wrong; we don’t have issues with sourced whiskey. However, since it lacks transparency, it would be harder to present the brand, so we recommend looking for a “distilled or bottled by” label.

4. Drink It The Way You Want It

Neat

Neat

If your purpose is to taste the full potential of the spirit, consume the spirit neat first. The goal is to consume spirit slowly and not in one gulp. 

If you are new to consuming spirits neat, be prepared with the spicy notes of the straight rye whiskey because it can be a slap to your taste buds.

On The Rocks

Glass of Whiskey with dried fruits on table

Whiskey on the rocks is popular for three reasons: (1) it is refreshing, (2) it helps dilute the whiskey, and (3) it makes it easier to drink. 

However, bourbon drinkers agree that whiskey can have an arguable downside on the rocks because it can over-dilute and over-chill your whiskey. 

Coldness may lock in the flavors and prevent its aromatic compounds from revealing themselves. 

In Cocktails

In Cocktails

Rye whiskeys are an excellent cocktail base because of their alcohol content and rich flavor profile. It would be best to start with a classic cocktail like an Old Fashioned. Here are some of the best rye whiskeys for Old Fashioned cocktails

Classic rye cocktails like a Manhattan and the forgotten classics like Vieux Carré and Old Pal are good choices. 

Different Rye Whiskeys & How To Drink Them

Different Rye Whiskeys & How To Drink Them  

American Rye Whiskey

Indiana Rye

Indian rye gets its designation on July 1, 2021, and is now officially recognized as a regional whiskey style after House Bill 1409 was approved. 

House Bill 1409 will help regulate the spirit’s labeling, advertising, and sale.

It is best to consume neat or with a splash of water. 

Read: Is Bourbon or Rye Better For Old Fashioned?

Maryland Rye

Maryland Rye

Maryland was a distilling powerhouse dating back pre-Prohibition, surpassing states like Kentucky and Pennsylvania, thanks to its distinctive style [1]. 

Old Maryland ryes were made with a mash bill of rye and barley. The sweetness comes from the brewer’s yeast, giving the spirit floral and lighter notes. 

Some brands are very good to consume neat, while there are some that should be a cocktail base since the smoothness varies depending on the distiller. 

Pennsylvania-Style Rye

Pennsylvania-style (Old Monongahela) contains a mash of rye and malted barley. It has drying spice notes and sweetness ideal for cocktails, but you can consume it neat and on the rocks.

Read: Top Rye Whiskeys Under $50

Canadian Rye Whisky

Canadian Rye Whisky

Canadian rye whisky shares certain characteristics with bourbon and Scotch whisky. However, it has its style, thanks to its whole rye thing. It should meet the Canadian whisky standards in production and aging. 

Moreover, Canadian rye whisky doesn’t need to be made from the majority of rye grain; the category only describes the grain content. 

It is best to sip neat, but you can consume it with ice or in a cocktail.  

High Rye Bourbon

High rye bourbon may surprise you because it is spicy and flavorful. Since it is bourbon, it should contain 51% percent corn [2], rye, and barley and should be aged in charred new oak barrels. 

Some bourbons use wheat grain, but high rye bourbon contains a high percent rye grain, giving it a peppery palate. 

The corn gives a sweet flavor, while the rye gives peppery notes, so it is best to sip neat. 

Read: Bourbon vs Rye

Popular Cocktail Recipes

Popular Rye Whiskey Cocktail Recipes

Whiskey Smash

Prep Time: 5 mins

Total Time: 5 mins

Ingredients: 

  • 2 oz high rye bourbon 
  • 0.75 oz simple syrup
  • 4 mint leaves
  • 3 lemon wedges
  • Mint sprig (garnish)

Instructions: Get a shaker, then muddle the lemon wedges before adding all the remaining ingredients. Shake it well, then double strain before serving with a mint sprig. 

Serving: 1

Black Manhattan

Black Manhattan

Prep Time: 5 mins

Total Time: 5 mins

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz rye whiskey
  • 1 oz Averna amaro
  • 1 dash of orange bitters
  • 1 dash of Angostura bitters
  • Brandied cherry (garnish)

Instructions: In a mixing glass, combine all the ingredients with ice and stir well until well chilled. Strain it, then garnish it with a cherry before serving. 

Serving: 1

FAQs 

Is rye whiskey good for sipping?

Yes, rye whiskey is good for sipping, especially high-quality ones.

Most rye whiskey enthusiasts love sipping whiskey neat, but others prefer to use it as a cocktail base. Whichever you prefer, it is a versatile spirit everyone can enjoy. 

Should rye whiskey be chilled?

Yes, you can chill rye whiskey. However, we don’t recommend it. It is palatable at room temperature, but it is not a sin if you want to try chilling it.

At room temperature, the aroma and tasting notes of the whiskey are evident. 

Should you add water to rye whiskey?

Yes, you can add water to the rye whiskey. A splash of water helps open up the complexity and aroma of the spirit.

Also, if you find it too strong, you can add a few drops of water to tone it a bit. 

In Summary

There are no rules when drinking rye whiskey because it all boils down to everyone’s personal preference. Because it is a versatile liquor, you can consume it neat, on the rocks, or as cocktails.

However, before you decide on how to consume rye whiskey, it would be best to know the different whiskey styles. 

References:

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/14/dining/drinks/rye-whiskey-maryland.html
  2. https://www.cnbc.com/2015/06/04/5-rules-that-make-it-bourbon.html

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