Despite the “American Pie” implication, you don’t have to be a good old boy to drink whiskey and rye. You don’t have to make Jack Daniels your whiskey of choice either. Now, no shade on Jack Daniels (if it’s good enough for Slash, it’s good enough for me), but try to broaden your palate with a wide range of bourbons, ryes and American whiskeys for s adapt to the right cocktail.
Here are five bottles of whiskey with suggestions for how to enjoy them (of course, you should feel free to step out of the book and whip up a Kentucky Mule or highball whiskey).
Bourbon Village Manhattan
A classic Manhattan blending rye, sweet vermouth and bitters. These days, most people drink them, replacing the rye with bourbon. (Rye whiskeys are made mostly from rye grains, which makes them less sweet and a bit spicier than bourbon, which is similar but made mostly from corn.) For a wonderful middle ground, try the Vermont’s Village Garage Bourbon, which is made from Green Mountain State corn and rye. Aged for five years in American white oak barrels, this bottle has everything to please: unctuous but with a little punch, rich with a hint of sweetness. If you’re looking for an excursion, go buy a bottle in Bennington, Vermont and enjoy the distillery’s brand new restaurant. On the Web: villagegarage.com
Old Fashioned Templeton Rye
The Old Fashioned is old. Like 150 years. Arguably the first cocktail, this one is basically alcohol, sugar and bitters. Because it can be too sweet, rye is a good choice (you can also slowly reduce the amount of sugar you add as you learn to dig into the bolder taste of rye).
Templeton 4 Year Rye is ideal for the Old Fashioned as it’s flavorful but not harsh – it doesn’t have that whiskey burn that can ruin the palate. It smells good, looks good and tastes better. A perfect gateway into the world of rye. On the Web: templetondistillery.com
Basil Hayden Mint Julep
Another cocktail with a sophisticated reputation, the Mint Julep is just bourbon, mint, simple syrup and ice. With a healthy dose of sugar and a strong, fragrant mint, you don’t want to use a fancy bottle. But you don’t want to skimp either. Basil Hayden is a good choice. A straight bourbon from Kentucky, Basil Hayden has plenty of flavor, a bite that cuts through the syrup, a spiced nose that plays on mint, and a light body for this delicate cocktail. Sidebar: If Jack Daniels or Maker’s Mark is your favorite bourbon at a bar, swap it out next time and note its lighter yet powerful quality. On the Web: basilhaydenbourbon.com
Bully Boy American Straight Whiskey on the rocks
There are too many local distillers to name a #1, but I can say Boston’s Bully Boy is definitely tied for the top spot. Bully’s American Straight Whiskey is his flagship whiskey and probably the bottle for which he is most recognized. It’s neither a bourbon nor a rye, but splits the difference between the two with a blend of 45% corn, 45% rye, and 10% malted barley. What does that mean? This means you can make a wicked Manhattan out of it, but something so balanced – something that sits in the middle of the xy axis from sweet to dry, sweet to spicy – doesn’t need or want anything different. other than ice cream. On the Web: bullyboydistillers.com
Old Elk Rye Straight
Old Elk’s Straight Rye whiskey doesn’t even need ice. He doesn’t need a cherry or a fridge or a drink. Five-year-old Old Elk Rye is incredibly clean, crisp and smooth. It has spice but no sting. It has plenty of body, but no undesirable syrupy quality. If you just need the perfect bottle for your camping trip or your boat or a friend’s BBQ or just your front porch, this is it. On the Web: oldelk.com