Start Fall Off On A Spicy Note With These Bartender Approved Rye Whiskeys

As the summer end and fall begins, those humid, hot days make way for crisp, cool evenings perfectly suited for the subtle pepper spiciness of a well-made rye whiskey. Some would argue that rye is the “spice of life” you need just at this moment.

In recent years, rye whiskey has become increasingly popular yet again. Rye used to be the main whiskey distilled in America way back in the day but then history happened. Anyway, this newfound popularity means that there are now countless brands available. To find the right fit for you, we decided to ask the professionals. We tasked some of our favorite bartenders with telling us the best rye whiskeys to make your first sips of fall peppery and spicy.

Michter’s Rye

Anthony Aviles, general manager of Jack Dusty in Sarasota, Florida

Michter’s Rye has enough smokiness to enjoy with a good cigar (if you’re into that sort of thing) without overpowering it. Yet, the juice carries enough complexity to truly be enjoyed while the sun sets. It doesn’t have the same burn/bite that most whiskeys do, which is something I can appreciate during those 90-degree Florida summer nights.

Lot 40 Rye

Meredith Barry, executive beverage chef of Angad Arts Hotel in St. Louis

I fell in love with Lot 40 Rye a few years ago. It’s a 100 percent rye mash bill from Canada that’s distilled in a single copper pot. It’s great for cocktails, from a sazerac to even a fruity cobbler. The rye spice is persistent on the palate as well as vanilla, cardamom, and the earthy green notes from the virgin oak. It’s just damn delicious.

Old Forester 100 Proof Rye

Benjamin Burch, bartender at The Nolen in San Diego

I’d love to pick a local craft distillery here, but I’m just not convinced they’ve quite caught up to the big distillers. Brands selling MGP stuff are still putting out phenomenal whiskeys. But, I have to go with Old Forester 100 proof Rye. It is insanely affordable and just brings everything I want out of a rye whiskey. It’s got enough vanilla and caramel sweetness but also has those nice big spice notes and the higher proof just makes better cocktails. If I’m making an old fashioned or a Manhattan, this is the whiskey I’m reaching for.

Two James Catcher’s Rye

Rebecah Hunter, bartender at The Monarch Club in Detroit

If you’re interested in thinking local, then you’ll enjoy knowing that this rye is distilled from 100 percent Michigan grown rye and made with the freshwater of the Great Lakes. Although it has no color, it provides your tongue with spice and notes of fig.

Oregon Spirit Rye

Eva Al-Gharaballi, bartender at Datz in St. Petersburg, Florida

Oregon Spirit Rye Whiskey is my choice of rye to drink. With hints of clove, honey, cinnamon, and ginger, this award-winning rye has a smooth start with a traditional wheat finish.

High West Double Rye

Tommy Ergle, bar manager at Dr. BBQ in St. Petersburg, Florida

One of our go-to rye whiskeys here at Dr. BBQ is High West’s Double Rye. The High West Double Rye has a great spicy-meets-sweet flavor that gives it an early summertime taste with a strong, mellow finish. The perfect rye to sip on at the end of a hot summer day.

Savage & Cooke Lip Service Rye

Jerry Shaffer, food and beverage manager at Embassy Suites Napa in Napa, California

I’m going with Lip Service because of its intense nose orange peel, clove, candied ginger, creamy and velvety flavors.

Pikesville Rye

Jeremy Allen, bartender at MiniBar in Los Angeles

The bottle I’ve been recommending to people — when you can’t find Willett — is Pikesville 6 Year 110 proof. It’s a little bit older and more developed than Rittenhouse. It’s strong enough for bartenders or would-be tough guys, mellow enough for bourbon drinkers, and complex enough for sophisticates.

WhistlePig PiggyBack Rye

Hayden Miller, head bartender at Bodega Taqueria y Tequila in Miami

Whiskey lovers owe a lot to Dave Pickerell, not just this killer bottle. With a full rye mash bill for the spice and bottling just under 100 proof for the strength, it makes great cocktails. It’s also perfect to toast some old pals, no matter the occasion.

Rittenhouse Rye

Damian Langarica, head bartender at in Philadelphia

How can I not choose Rittenhouse Rye? I live in Philly and the bar that I work at is in the corner of Rittenhouse Square. But besides that, it is a “must-have” rye whiskey to have at your home bar. It’s a very versatile rye. You can either get creative with it in a cocktail or enjoy it neat.

Willett Family Estate Rye

Emmanuelle Massicot, beverage director of Kata Robata in Houston

While it’s great for Manhattans and old fashioneds, you’re probably going to want to sip on this one over a few ice cubes.

Knob Creek Rye

Marta De La Cruz Marrero, food and beverage supervisor of Burlock Coast in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Knob Creek rye whiskey is a smooth rye whiskey with bold rye spiciness with undertones of vanilla and oak with expansive notes of herbs and rye with nuances of oak.

Journeyman Last Feather Rye

Stephen Potter, lead bartender at The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck in Grand Rapids, Michigan

This is an easy one, Journeyman Distillery Last Feather Rye. I love the pepper and spice of the rye. Balanced with the sweetness of the wheat and some notes of banana to make it a nice easy drink.