George Dickel Raises the Bar with a Rye

We were lucky enough to be invited to a George Dickel Raising the Bar event launching their new Rye in San Francisco recently. Known for their Tennessee Whiskys, we were happy to hear that they were releasing a rye-based spirit and were eager to try it out.

All of their classic whiskys, overseen by current Master Distiller John Lunn, are based on a formula using 84% corn, 8% rye and 8% malted rye. We were lucky to spend some time with Zack from Taylor Strategy, who brought over Douglas Kragel, National George Dickel Ambassador. Mr. Kragel explained to us that the primary difference in the whiskys was the amount of aging: No. 8 is aged for 6-7 years, No. 12 takes 7-9 years and the Barrel Select is made from a combination of the two, aged for 10-12 years. We were able to taste the Barrel Select neat and found it was extremely smooth with a slightly sweet vanilla finish, just right for sipping on cold winter days.

The George Dickel Rye Whisky departs from the corn mash recipe and is based on a 95% rye and 5% malted barley mash, which is chilled and then charcoal-filtered prior to aging for 5-6 years in new oak barrels. It’s a unique technique meant to add a smooth finish. We also tasted it neat and remember a slight spicy note, but that was after a few other cocktail tastes.

The event itself was really well organized and a lot of fun. They took over the Minna Gallery and created a hoedown saloon atmosphere decorated with lots of rustic wood and barrels. They set up seven different bar stations manned by some of the City’s best bartenders who concocted and served Dickel-based cocktails:

Each station featured a helpful sign that introduced the bartender and the cocktail. The bartenders and Taylor Strategy were kind enough to grant us permission to reprint the recipes for these excellent cocktails.

First up (for us anyway) was Clock Bar’s Tommy Quimby who made Under the Sun using George Dickel #8. It had just the right amount of sweet and tart:

Under the Sun (Tommy Quimby, Clock Bar)
1.3 oz. George Dickel No. 8
1 oz. Oolong Tea Honey Syrup
0.5 oz. Lemon Juice
2 teaspoons lemon curd
1 dash orange bitters
0.75 oz egg white

Shake all ingredients over ice and garnish with a charred lemon slice.


We moved down the bar and tried Rose Pistola’s head barman Enrique Sanchez’s Italian Monk, which was one of our favorite drinks of the evening (we’ll be stirring this up at home a lot):

Italian Monk (Enrique Sanchez, Rose Pistola)
1 oz. George Dickel No. 8
0.5 oz. Nardini Amaro
0.25 oz. Benedectine
4 dashes of lime tincture

Stir all ingredients with ice, strain and garnish with an orange peel.


There were passed hors d’oeuvres that we somehow were a little slow to get to (although we did get a wild mushroom bruschetta that was excellent). Foxtail Catering from San Francisco provided all the bites, and what matches with whiskys better than BBQ ribs, pulled pork and chicken?

We returned back to drinking and moved on to the 22nd Century made by Carlo Splendorini, head bartender at Michael Mina’s. It was nicely balanced in one glass, but a little too sweet in another:

22nd Century (Carlo Splendorini, Michael Mina)
1 oz. George Dickel No. 12
0.5 oz. Luxardo Sangue Morlacco
0.5 oz. Lemon Juice
0.25 oz. Creme de Cacao

Stir all ingredients with ice, strain and garnish with a palm-slapped mint leaf.


We like our whiskeys mixed with Amaro, and the very lovely Claire Hunter from the appropriately named Rye Bar concocted an excellent Tennessee Tuxedo, also made with George Dickel No. 12. The pear liquor and smoked maple syrup added just the right amount of sweetness:

Tennessee Tuxedo (Claire Hunter, Rye)
1 oz. George Dickel No. 12
0.25 oz. Averna Amaro
0.25 oz. Pear Liqueur
1 teaspoon smoked maple syrup
2 dashes peach bitters

Stir all ingredients with ice, strain and garnish with a lemon twist.


At last we made it to the other room which featured cocktails made with the George Dickel Rye (finally!). We slurped up a really tasty punch made by Jasper Corner Tavern’s head bartender Kevin Deidrich:

Cascade Hollow Punch (Kevin Deidrich, Jasper’s Corner Tap)
1.3 oz. George Dickel Rye
0.5 oz. Lemon Juice
0.25 oz. ginger syrup
1 teaspoon simple syrup
0.75 oz. sparking water
mint leaves

Muddle the raspberries and mint, add the rest of the ingredients, shake with ice and double-strain into a glass. Garnish with raspberries or citrus wheel and mint leaves.


Bar-star Reza Esmaili of Ananas Consulting made a Mint Julep derivative that was creamy and refreshing. It was just great seeing Reza behind the bar again:

Dickel Milk Julep (Reza Esmaili, Ananas)
1.25 oz. George Dickel Rye
0.25 oz. Creme de Menthe
1.25 oz. homemade milk mixture
2 dashes celery bitters

Stir all ingredients with ice, strain over crushed ice into a highball and garnish with a mint sprig.


We were so psyched to hear that Duggan McDonnell was in the house. We are totally into his Campo de Encanto Pisco that we use with our Pisco Pedicab inversion of a Brandy Sidecar. Unfortunately, we were just too slow to get there, and he ran out of his cocktail. We’ll have to recreate the drink at some point from the recipe below:

Carmen Amaya (Duggan McDonnell, Cantina)
1.25 oz. George Dickel Rye
0.5 oz. Lustua Amontillado Sherry
1 oz. lemon juice
0.5 oz. simple syrup
2 dashes orange bitters

Shake all ingredients together with ice, double-strain and garnish with basil leaves.


Foxtail also catered a waffle bar featuring savory and sweet waffles. We did try the cheddar bacon version and can honestly say that bacon does make everything taste great:

The George Dickel Rye launch party was appropriately called “Raising the Bar,” and we can attest that they most certainly did. We would like to personally thank George Dickel and Taylor Strategy for inviting us to this event. It was a very lively atmosphere with plenty of people and loud music, yet there was never a wait for any of the cocktails, and we had a great time conversing with many of the bartenders. We also appreciate Brand Ambassador Douglas Kragel for spending some time educating us on all things George Dickel.

We look forward to picking up a bottle of the George Dickel Rye and tasting it home in a controlled (unbiased and sober!) atmosphere against some of our other favorite ryes.

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6 responses to “George Dickel Raises the Bar with a Rye

    • Stewart, you really should have been there. Kevin’s punch was really good. I forgot to add that it should be garnished with fruit (raspberry, citrus or whatever suits your fancy) and mint leaves. I’ve updated the post to reflect that.

  1. I’m from North Carolina and my drink of choice has always been Dickel’s White label. I now live in the St. Louis area and have a rough time finding Dickel but strangely enough a local Grocery chain now stocks the Rye. I have counted the bottles and can tell you that I’m the only one buying it. (idiots with leather tongues out here that think Jack has a value other than an alternative fuel source)
    I have made the pilgrimage to the Dickel Distillery (Whiskey Mecca) and proudly bear the license plate. Thanks to all who help in the Hollar.

    • Dale, Sounds like you need to make sure you keep buying those Dickel bottles to make sure they keep a constant supply. We still haven’t seen much stock of the Dickel Rye out here, but hope that will change soon. We totally agree with you on the Jack comment. It still amazes how much Jack and Cokes are ordered out here at higher end cocktail bars. We can’t count the number of times we have heard the bartender say, “We don’t have Jack.”

  2. Pingback: We are Truly Honored to be part of the “Dickel Dozen” | BarFlySF·

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