So here's what you need to know about rye whiskey: Rye whiskey (sometimes referred to simply as "rye") is kind of a big deal. It shows up in a lot of old cocktail recipes, and has recently been re-discovered by the cocktailing elite. (Apparently rye whiskey has a long and storied history - according to this guy, it was distilled by George Washington at Mount Vernon.) It tastes like whiskey but different, i.e., in rye, the spicy flavors present in the whiskey are sharper and more distinct. It practically begs to be paired with bitters, which is probably why the most famous cocktail made with Rye Whiskey, the sazerac, includes a healthy dose of Peychaud's. (Sazerac also happens to be the brand name of a kind of rye.)
I bought my first bottle of rye whiskey a couple weeks ago and set to work on a sage-y cocktail. Here's what I came up with:
The Pink Sage
3/4 of a juicy, ripe red plum
4-5 sage leaves (thank you, backyard herb garden)
.5 oz sugar syrup
.25 oz lemon juice (make it fresh!)
2.0 oz rye whiskey (2.5 if you want the taste of the rye to come through more strongly.)
Add the plum and sage to the shaker. You will want to muddle this one rather vigorously - it may help to add the sage and half the plum, muddle, and then add the rest of the plum and then muddle again. Fill the shaker with ice and then add the remaining ingredients. Shake and strain into a cocktail glass.
Verdict: Wow. This is very, very good. The plums, sage and rye are such a natural pairing that it's hard to tell where one flavor ends and another begins. It's sweet and smooth and herbal and complicated. Adding a couple dashes of Peychaud's bitters will add an interesting, licorice-y dimension to it. (Sounds weird, but - try it.) Just don't drink it too fast. Rye whiskey is almost 50 percent alcohol. I'm gonna go sit down.