Scan a menu in a craft cocktail bar and it’s a lead-pipe cinch
you’ll find something on it made with rye — straight rye
whiskey, that is, made right here in the United States. For
drinkers under, say, 35, it’s even a given. But those of us older
than that can recall the days when if you asked for a rye
Manhattan they would give you something made with Canadian
“rye,” which oddly enough can be made with no rye in it at all.
Indeed, things got so bad that the whole category almost
completely disappeared. The troubles really began at the turn of
the century with World War I and Prohibition on the horizon and
then they only got worse.
The story of Old Overholt, which I began in my last column,
is really the story of the whole Mid-Atlantic rye whiskey
industry, and of industrial America. The rise, the fall and the
rebirth — it’s a history that to my knowledge has never been
fully explored and needs to be for this style of whiskey to be
more than a fad. Here is the full unabridged story of how rye
whiskey, our first indigenous distilled spirit (it goes back to
1648) almost became a footnote in American history.