Rye Whiskey Makes A Comeback


RyeWhiskey_0Once-popular rye whiskey faded out after Prohibition put producers behind bars, but now, bars are putting rye whiskey back on the shelf.
When Keith Kerkhoff and his partner Scott Bush founded Templeton, Iowa-based Templeton Rye Spirits in 2006 there were about seven rye whiskey brands in the market.
“Now there’s probably 20 or 30 ryes out there on the shelf. We couldn’t keep enough rye on the market when we started. We didn’t realize Templeton was going to be this popular,” says Kerkhoff.
Kerkhoff’s family has a unique history in the whiskey business. His grandpa made the rye drink, nicknamed, “The Good Stuff,” in the 1920s. And his Templeton Rye had one very infamous customer from Chicago. Kerkhoff says mobster Al Capone used to be a favorite customer.
Prohibition took rye out of the limelight. Bourbon and Irish whiskey stayed fairly popular, but many people lost the taste for rye and it slowly lost its market share.
However, popular classic drinks like the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned are helping rye whiskey make a comeback.
Kerkhoff believes a new breed of mixologists with a taste for new twists on classic cocktails have helped rye become popular again. Nick Eldredge is one of those them.
“It’s one of those hidden gems that we just don’t know about until we try. And the more people that try it and the more that they try it in different drinks, the more they understand how special it really is,” says Eldredge.
He works at Americana Restaurant in Des Moines, Iowa and began using rye whiskey after he was introduced to it by a fellow bartender.
“As soon as I tried it I found a flavor profile that I hadn’t experienced before. Irish whiskey is pretty strong and harsh. The bourbon is a little more sweet and the rye kinda has that balance of both of them. It’s best of both worlds. It’s a little bit hot but it’s a little bit sweet too,” says Eldredge.
Eldredge said that many rye whiskey lovers order the higher-end brands neat, but he encourages people who shy away from whiskey to try it in a cocktail.
It’s not just the rye that’s hot: The barrels it’s aged in also are valuable. Almost six gallons of “The Good Stuff” soaks into the wood during the four years it sits. This makes the barrels a hot commodity for beer breweries.
“It’s a new fad. People are always looking for something different and they all seem to want to have that barrel-aged beer,” says Kerkhoff.
For mixologists and drinkers alike some spirits cycle in and out of popularity. But Kerkhoff and Eldredge think that the taste for rye won’t fade any time soon.
Cocktail consultant and mixologist Natalie Bovis believes rye whiskey will continue to inspire bartenders to get creative with their libations. And thanks to its rich background, this spirit has plenty to offer those interested in learning more about the history of cocktails.
“It was among the first base materials used for fermentation and distillation in the northeast United States, where the settlers landed and built their communities…and stills,” she says. “Therefore, rye whiskey shows up in many cocktail recipes.”
“I love working with rye-based spirits because they have a spicy quality that counterbalances other flavors in a really fun way,” she adds.
And for those looking to spice up happy hour, rye-based drinks go beyond the traditional Old Fashioned and Manhattan. Check out some new, tantalizing rye whiskey cocktail recipes at Fox News Magazine:
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