Cocktail: Unoaked Rye Julep


It’s been a few months since I picked up a bottle of unoaked rye whiskey in Portland, and yet the bottle is almost full. Unoaked whiskey is just a fancy name for bottled moonshine and as such, it is much harsher on our palettes, which are accustomed to the mellow finish of aged whiskey. We tried substituting the unoaked rye for other ryes in our favorite beverages, but the taste of rye overpowers just about any mixer we tried. For example, ginger beer usually can tame any spirit, and usually goes well with any whiskey, but this rye was way too much for the ginger beer to handle. We tried making citrus cocktails, but it tasted like putting lemon or lime on a piece of rye bread, and it was not a good flavor.

Today, after some experimenting, I think I found a way to sip this “rye lightning.” Basically, you have to make it into a julep, but instead of adding mint, use basil! Thanks to Saveur’s Basil Julep recipe for the idea.

  • 6 sprigs of basil
  • 1 ounce of simple syrup
  • 3 ounces of unbaked rye whiskey

In a cocktail shaker, muddle together the basil and the simple syrup. Add whiskey and shake gently. Pour through your cocktail shaker’s strainer into an old-fashioned glass filled with crushed ice. Enjoy.

The first thing that is readily apparent is the color. It almost looks like chartreuse. As you’ll find out, the rye is almost completely neutralized, although the combination of basil and rye yields a very curious mixed flavor. Mint might work a little better, but I only had the basil on hand so that’s what I used.

Basil Julep
The strength of the basil and the un-aged rye whiskey was a little too harsh. This drink is better made with aged Irish Whiskey.

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