Best Bargain Booze: Old Overholt Rye

Straight Up Cocktails and Spirits

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"Do you have a favorite bargain spirit? Something with a lower than average price tag that delivers great value every time?"

Back in July, I posed this question to seven bar experts and a lively discussion ensued. Now that the weather's cooler and tastes are turning to darker spirits, it seems like the perfect time to tell you about my own personal pick: Old Overholt rye.

Affectionately known around my house as "Old Overcoat," Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey has long been a home bar staple for me. Here's why:

  1. It's Affordable. Priced at under $20 (usually in the $15-$18 range) for a 750 ml bottle, Old Overholt is a good bargain. While it might not have all the slow-sipping complexity and depth as some of the small-batch ryes available on the market, Old Overholt makes a great mixer — with a much lower price tag.
  2. It's Dry-Tasting. Straight rye whiskey such as Old Overholt is made with at least 51 percent rye, making for a very different flavor profile than that of its sweeter, rounder-tasting, cousin, bourbon, which is made with at least 51 percent corn. (Think of the taste of rye bread compared to that of corn bread or corn on the cob.) I have a personal preference for flavors on the drier end of the the spectrum, so when it comes to types of American whiskey, rye's my desert-island pick.
  3. It's a Survivor. Established in 1810, Old Overholt's weathered its share of hardships over the years. First there was Prohibition, which shut the distillery's doors in the 1920s and early 1930s. Then there were the decades that followed, when rye was no longer the American whiskey of choice and bartenders started mixing classic cocktails such as Manhattans and Old Fashioneds with bourbon instead. But through it all, Old Overholt remained a steady, if quiet, liquor store presence. Before the current cocktails and spirits renaissance, it was often the only rye you could find on the shelf.
  4. It Makes Some Great Classic Cocktails. Sazeracs. Old Fashioneds. Algonquins. Manhattans. I've test-driven them all with Old Overholt at home and have been very pleased with the results.
  5. More on Those Manhattans. Back in the days when I had only tasted a Manhattan made with bourbon, I always found them vaguely too sweet for my liking. But once I started making Manhattans the old-time way — with rye whiskey — that all changed. Having a bottle of Old Overholt on hand made a Manhattan lover out of me.

Do you have a favorite bargain spirit? A favorite rye? If it came down to bourbon or rye, what would your desert island pick be?

Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf.

Nora Maynard is a longtime home mixologist and an occasional instructor at NYC’s Astor Center. She is a contributor to The Business of Food: Encyclopedia of the Food and Drink Industries and is the recipient of the American Egg Board Fellowship in culinary writing at the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow. She previously covered food and drink in film at The Kitchn in her weekly column, The Celluloid Pantry.

Related: Best Bargain Booze: 7 Top Picks from Bar Experts

(Image: Nora Maynard)

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