To be honest this is all just an excuse to talk about rye whisky so let’s zoom through the Boulevardier and get down to business. Pronounced Boo-leh-var-dee-yay. Created in 1927 by Harry McElhone for the American editor of a short lived French publication of the same name. Basically a bourbon or rye Negroni with the whisky component slightly boosted. Often a 2:1:1 ratio but I like the 1.5:1:1 version quoted below. Please yourselves. Often listed with bourbon but better with rye. There we go, that fulfills my promise and then brings us nicely to rye whisky.
Rye whisky is relatively unknown outside of the USA compared to bourbon and therefore needs something of an introduction. While old world whisky is made entirely from barley US whiskey is made from a mixture of cereals, the composition of which is known as the “mash bill”. By law the mash bill of bourbon whiskey must be at least 51% corn (aka maize) but we’ll get into a bourbon discussion some other time. Rye whiskey has a mash bill of between 51% and 100% rye. That aside, the rules and process for rye whiskey are the same as for bourbon. So what’s the diff? Well whiskey made with rye has a much spicier flavour than corn based whiskey which tends to flow in a sweeter direction. Having said that, many bourbons do include some rye in their mash but usually no more than 15%. Rye has a longer history than bourbon and is essentially America’s original whiskey. Many American cocktails that are now made with bourbon would have originally been made with rye – especially those originating in the northern states. All the more surprising then that for a very long time it was all but extinct with only a single budget bottling available – Old Overholt, pictured on the far left above. Thankfully rye is back, although outside of the US it can be difficult and expensive to get your hands on. Bulleit Rye seems to be widely available and is a rock solid mixer but my favourite mixing rye is Rittenhouse 100 proof which packs a fabulous spicy punch. Of the others pictured I prefer the High West Double Rye and George Dickel Rye for sipping (and Sazeracs). Old Overholt is a decent mixer if a bit one dimensional but outside of the US (where it’s dirt cheap) tends to be overpriced. Still we owe it some respect for keeping rye alive through the Dark Ages. It should be noted that Canadian whisky is sometimes colloquially called “rye” (as in Don McLean’s American Pie) but, while it may contain some rye is really not technically a rye whiskey. Anyway, let’s mix something up:
1.5oz / 45ml rye whiskey* (I used Rittenhouse 100 Proof).
1oz / 30ml Campari.
1oz / 30ml sweet vermouth (I used Punt e Mes).
Stir with ice and strain into a DOF glass containing a chunk of clear ice.
Garnish with a twist of orange peel.
Toast Old Overholt for keepin’ the rye alive.
*You can use a high rye bourbon if you can’t find any rye. I suggest Wild Turkey 101 or Bulleit Frontier Bourbon.
For those who would like to know a bit more about the return of the rye here’s an interesting article by Wayne Curtis in The Atlantic.