March 28, 2010 (Day 1) — Brooklyn

Welcome to Day 1 of the new Cocktails, 365! Over the next year we’ll be creating budget-based cocktails. Some of these drinks will include some more expensive mixers, but only because this is assuming you’ve had time to build up your cocktail cabinet. However, the base ingredient (what you’ll use the most of) will be an affordable, but tasty base.

Every week we’ll feature a new base spirit and brand. This week is rye.

Rittenhouse Rye, specifically.

Rittenhouse is distilled by Heaven Hill Distilleries out of Bardstown, Kentucky. These are the same people behind Burnett’s, PAMA, Evan Williams, Christian Brother’s Brandy, and HPNOTIQ.

Heaven Hills describes Rittenhouse thusly:

Produced in the tradition of the classic Pennsylvania or Monongahela rye whiskies, Rittenhouse is a much acclaimed rye now enjoying a renaissance in the major metro markets of the country. Available in the standard 80° bottling or in a special Bottled In Bond expression, Rittenhouse is a tribute to the classic rye whiskies that were once the preeminent American whiskey style, kept alive through the many lean years by Heaven Hill and two other Kentucky distilleries.

While starting to enjoy at least a little bit of a resurgence, rye is still the lesser of the whiskies currently drank in the United States. And if you start looking for higher quality ryes, you’re looking in the $30 to $50 range. But can you find a tasty rye without breaking the bank? Rittenhouse is the answer — with an an average price point around $20.

It has the distinct spicy flavor that you expect from a quality rye, with just a little bit of burn on the end. While probably not a “sit-and-sip” rye, we’re mainly interested in a good quality budget rye that can make some killer cocktails.

Today’s drink:


1 oz sweet vermouth

2 oz Rittenhouse rye whiskey

2 to 3 dashes maraschino liqueur

Combine your ingredients in a Boston shaker, stir well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

It’s a headier, spicier version of the Manhattan. There’s the nice earthy flavor you get from the maraschino, but the spice from the rye stays on top of the taste. You can pick up the sweet wine taste in the background, but it’s the Pips to the rye’s Gladys Knight.

Not for the faint of heart.


— Mark

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