Thanks to its prevalence, rye whiskey was historically the most popular ingredient for classic American cocktails. However, it often became substituted by bourbon following the repeal of Prohibition.

With rye whiskey’s revival, now is the opportunity to try classic cocktails the way they were meant to be!

In this guide, you will discover the top 10 best rye whiskey cocktails to make at home:

  1. Manhattan
  2. Vieux Carré
  3. Phylloxera Sazerac
  4. Whiskey Sour
  5. Old Fashioned
  6. Brooklyn Cocktail
  7. Scofflaw
  8. Ward Eight
  9. Whiskey Highball
  10. Old Pal

Simply use the links above to jump ahead or scroll down to read them all!

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1. Manhattan Cocktail

Bar Drake Manhattan Cocktail

The quintessential rye cocktail, the Manhattan has persevered in showcasing the spicy American whiskey’s unique characteristics. Thanks to New York’s cultural and geographical proximity to rye whiskey distillers, the Manhattan is a cocktail that’s rarely produced using bourbon.

It just needs the following ingredients:

  • 60 ml (2 Oz) Bourbon
  • 30 ml (1 Oz) Sweet Red Vermouth
  • 1 Dash Angostura Bitters

Add the ingredients to a shaker and stir over ice. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with maraschino cherries.

2. Vieux Carré

Vieux Carré Cognac Cocktail

One of two New Orleans classic cocktails that you’ll discover in this list, the Vieux Carré is iconic, to say the least. It’s traditionally served with rye whiskey, which offers superior contrast to the cognac compared to bourbon.

It consists of the following to make it:

  • 40 ml (¾ Oz) Cognac
  • 40 ml (¾ Oz) Rye Whiskey
  • 40 ml (¾ Oz) Sweet Vermouth
  • 1 Tsp Bénédictine
  • 2 Dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
  • 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters

Simply combine all the ingredients in a tumbler glass and stir them before adding ice.

3. Phylloxera Sazerac

Sazerac Cocktail

When French vineyards were decimated by the phylloxera outbreak in the late 19th century, cognac became increasingly hard to find. Consequently, whiskey became a common substitute for the Sazerac cocktail.

While bourbon was occasionally chosen, rye was the more popular choice in this time period until France overcame its epidemic. This choice was especially the case when Thomas Handy acquired the eponymous New Orleans bar in 1870.

Here’s what you’ll need to make it:

  • 50 ml (1¾ Oz) Bourbon
  • 15 ml (½ Oz) Absinthe
  • 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
  • 1 Lemon Peel

Add the absinthe to a tumbler glass and swirl it around until it leaves an even coating on the interior. Fill the glass with crushed ice and set it aside. Add the bourbon and bitters to a second tumbler glass and stir them with ice.

Afterwards, discard the contents from the first glass as you just want the absinthe’s essence. Strain the contents of the second tumbler into the first and add a lemon peel for garnish.

4. Whiskey Sour

Sour Cocktail

The whiskey sour is a classic and celebrated cocktail that used to be primarily made with both American and Canadian rye. It emerged in the 1870s and while bourbon is probably the more popular ingredient today, rye is the pedigree choice.

It’s very simple and just needs the following ingredients to make it:

  • 45 ml (1½ Oz) Rye Whiskey
  • 30 ml (1 Oz) Lemon Juice
  • 15 ml (½ Oz) Simple Syrup
  • Egg White

We suggest making sure that the egg you use is fresh enough by placing it in a bowl of water. If it sinks, it should be fine. Meanwhile, an egg that floats is a sign that it might not be fresh enough.

Separate the egg white and add it to a cocktail shaker with the other ingredients. Dry shake vigorously to emulsify the egg white and then add ice, shaking again until well-chilled. Double-strain into a glass and garnish with lemon.

The whiskey sour is traditionally served in a coupe but it can be also enjoyed “on the rocks” and strained into a tumbler glass with ice. You can also add a few bar spoons of red wine onto the foam. This finish results in the variant known as the “New York Sour”.

5. Old Fashioned

Old Fashioned Cocktail

When the Old Fashioned was first created in the early 19th century, it was originally a gin cocktail. It soon evolved and was then typically made with either whiskey or brandy.

While it’s strongly associated with bourbon, it was actually more commonly made with rye whiskey until the early 20th century! Give it a try with rye to experience it like way back when.

As it requires just a few ingredients, it’s both deceptively simple to make and surprisingly difficult to master. You’ll just need the following to make it:

  • 45 ml (1½ Oz) Rye Whiskey
  • Angostura Bitters
  • Orange Peel
  • Water
  • Sugar Cube

Saturate a sugar cube with a few dashes of bitters and place it at the bottom of a tumbler glass. Two dashes are generally used but you can add more if preferred. However, one too many can quickly become overbearing. Add a few dashes of water and mix until the sugar has dissolved.

Simple syrup may be easier to use than sugar as it doesn’t need work to dissolve. That said, you can use warm water to speed up the process. Since you’ll be adding ice, you won’t find yourself with a Hot Toddy! In fact, the ice will also melt just slightly faster, which helps marry the flavours.

Fill the glass with ice cubes (these will also cool the water if it was warm) and add the bourbon whiskey. Stir and then garnish with an orange peel. Make sure that you twist the peel over the drink so it releases its oils onto the surface.

6. Brooklyn Cocktail

Expense Account Rum & Calvados Cocktail

As you might well guess, the Brooklyn is something of a riff on the Manhattan. They were both invented around the same period and consist of two of the five cocktails named after New York City boroughs.

It’s closely related to the Manhattan, though, and uses a similar combination of bitters and vermouth. However, you’ll note some key differences, such as the use of digestive bitters, which traditionally consists of Picon Bière. Since this beverage is hard to find, you can instead opt for Italian amaro or similar.

Here’s what you need to make it:

  • 60 ml (2 Oz) Rye Whiskey
  • 30 ml (1 Oz) Dry Vermouth
  • 7.5 ml (¼ Oz) Maraschino Liqueur
  • 7.5 ml (¼ Oz) Picon Bière or similar
  • Maraschino Cherry

7. Scofflaw

Sidecar Cocktail

The Scofflaw is a product of Prohibition but it was invented in Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, France. It’s named after a word that was created in response to a contest by prohibitionist Delcevare King, which sought to describe a lawless drinker in a negative way.

It’s a great alternative to the Manhattan or Brooklyn cocktails. Indeed, it has a zestier fruity profile to the Brooklyn’s deep cherry character.

You’ll need:

  • 60 ml (2 Oz) Rye Whiskey
  • 30 ml (1 Oz) Dry Vermouth
  • 7.5 ml (¼ Oz) Lemon Juice
  • 2 Dashes Grenadine
  • 1 Dash Orange Bitters

Simply shake all the ingredients with ice and then strain into a chilled cocktail or coupe glass. Garnish with a lemon twist, wheel, or slice.

8. Ward Eight

Invented in 1898, the Ward Eight is a celebrated Bostonian cocktail. It was named after Martin M. Lomasney who won an election largely through the support of the city’s eighth ward.

Lomasney was a local hero and was known to help immigrants, which garnered him additional support. His aides provided poor and unskilled immigrants with manual labour and decent housing while ensuring they weren’t excluded from unions when he enacted a 48-hour work week and workmen’s compensation.

With all that now said, you’ll need the following to make it:

  • 60 ml (2 Oz) Rye Whiskey
  • 15 ml (½ Oz) Lemon Juice
  • 15 ml (½ Oz) Orange Juice
  • 1 Tsp Grenadine
  • 3 Maraschino Cherries

Shake all the ingredients with ice and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish it with the maraschino cherries held together on a cocktail stick.

9. Whiskey Highball

Although barely a cocktail, this simple mixer is an iconic turn-of-the-century drink that mustn’t be overlooked. It originally emerged as the “Scotch & Soda” and you’ll often hear it ordered in many Golden-Age Hollywood productions. Indeed, it was often consumed by Cary Grant’s characters in Hitchcock’s films.

However, a Whiskey Highball isn’t limited to just the Scotch & Soda. Indeed, it can be any combination of whiskeys such as rye or bourbon with a sparkling soft drink like soda water, tonic, ginger ale, or ginger beer.

Get a highball or Tom Collins glass, add 1 part of the whiskey, dilute it with 3 parts of the soda, and then top it up with ice and garnish with a citrus wedge. It’s easy, refreshing, and an often overlooked classic!

10. Old Pal

Old Fashioned Style Tumbler Cocktail

The Boulevardier was an early Negroni variant that was created in the 1920s at the aforementioned Harry’s New York bar by its eponymous owner, Harry MacElhone. Not long after, he created another variant, which he called the Old Pal.

As you may know, the classic Negroni is composed of equal measures of gin, sweet red vermouth, and Campari. Meanwhile, the Boulevardier is nearly equal measures of bourbon, vermouth, and Campari.

However, the Old Pal is a step further. Bourbon is substituted for rye while the prescribed vermouth is dry rather than sweet. Here’s a breakdown of its ingredients:

  • 30 ml (1 Oz) Rye Whiskey
  • 30 ml (1 Oz) Dry Vermouth
  • 30 ml (1 Oz) Campari

Just stir all of the ingredients in a shaker with ice and strain into an ice-filled tumbler. Finish by garnishing with a lemon peel.

What Next?

Now that you have read about the best rye whiskey cocktails, read up on some more of our related resources!

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