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The Resurgence of Rye…The Other American Whiskey

on 15/02/11 at 1:32 pm


Anyone with even a third-degree connection to the current climate in cocktail bars has likely noticed: rye whiskey is everywhere. For the past few years, rye has grown in popularity with barkeeps and spirits geeks (aka dipsomaniacs) around the country. Why? What about rye took it from being a dusty, if not altogether unused, inhabitant of the back bar to a prized and increasingly difficult category of spirits to acquire?

While poring through cocktail-recipe history, one finds more references to rye than bourbon. Kind of strange, huh? Prior to Prohibition, rye was already being made and used widely in the northeastern states. Many early cocktail books were written previous to full western settlement, and many of the talented barkeeps that published books abroad during Prohibition came from behind the bars in the rye-soaked Northeast.

The post-Prohibition glorification of the “Port of Bourbon” as the premier shipping location of a softer, sweeter type of American whiskey (a whiskey in which corn replaced rye as the dominant grain) created a powerful vacuum. The name bourbon was synonymous with better. As with all products that have to compete with a name brand, rye’s demand slowly waned over time.

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