The team at Sydney’s Kittyhawk know a few things about whiskey, and especially rye. In fact, much of its cocktail list is built around rye – so we decided to ask bar manager Harry Saunders a few questions, as well as the recipes for a few of the bar’s most popular drinks.
Q: WHY DO YOU THINK RYE WHISKEY IS ENJOYING SUCH POPULARITY AT THE MOMENT?
Rye hasn’t had as much press as other whiskies in the past, like Scotch or Bourbon, as it’s a little more niche and I suppose a little more of a novelty now. You see a lot of whiskey producers in the US and Canada playing around with these unconventional mash bills (High West are a good example) rather than just restricting themselves to corn and barley. I feel rye is generally a favourable base as it carries a little more weight on the palate and aroma than corn does, so you’ve already got a little more complexity than just ‘sweet’.
Q: WHY DOES IT WORK SO WELL IN COCKTAILS?
Because it has a really prominent natural spice, rye whiskey strikes a good balance between being flavourful enough that it doesn’t get lost behind other ingredients but also not being so overpowering that it’s like drinking a glass of gasoline. It’s also one of the only spirits, in my opinion, that sit nearly perfectly between being sweet, dry and bitter.
Q: WHAT’S SPECIAL ABOUT WILD TURKEY RYE, WHICH YOU’VE SPECIFICALLY HIGHLIGHTED IN YOUR COCKTAIL RECIPES?
Wild Turkey Rye fits the bill for the versatility that we look for in a cocktail whiskey at Kittyhawk perfectly. It’s got quite a bold tobacco and caraway seed aroma and a surprisingly dry palate with a little hint of toffee sweetness. We pump out tonnes of Rum n Rye Old Fashioneds so it’s super important for us to have a rye that won’t get washed away by the sweetness of the rums we use. It also stands up in drinks that have a lot of different flavours fighting for attention, like the Oh My. You don’t want a rye that tastes like nothing, but you also don’t want to feel like you’re drinking out of an ashtray.
Three of Kittyhawk’s rye cocktails
Classic: Monte Carlo
- 50ml Wild Turkey Rye
- 15ml DOM Benedictine
- 2 dashes angostura bitters
Method: Stir // serve up with orange twist
“The Monte Carlo is at its core a tricked-out Manhattan. It’s bold and boozy and the robust flavour of both the rye and Benedictine are magic together.”
Twist on classic: Rum n Rye Old Fashioned
- 30ml Wild Turkey Rye
- 30ml Bacardi Ocho
- 10ml brown sugar syrup
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 2 dashes orange bitters
Method: Stir // rocks glass // large rock and orange twist
“We feature a whole list of these at Kittyhawk but the Wild Turkey x Bacardi Ocho R&R is our most popular by far. Rum and rye go together like ice cream and Milo. The sweetness of the rum works in perfect harmony with the savoury elements of the rye.”
Bespoke/signature: Oh My
- 45ml Wild Turkey Rye
- 15ml PX Sherry
- 30ml spiced pear syrup
- 20ml lemon juice
- 1 torched rosemary sprig in tin
Method: Shake // nick n nora // serve with dehydrated pear slice
“This is a drink by one of our young bartenders Felicity Eshman at Kittyhawk. Tastes like a cross between a Christmas pudding and a campfire – the flavours are all quite sweet and then you get hit with this awesome savoury-smoky flavour from the toasted rosemary.”