Bender’s Rye: a Local SF Take on Whiskey

One of the best benefits of being a BarFly is that we occasionally get contacted to try out samples of excellent spirits. When asked if we are interested in a “sample,” we never expect to receive an entire bottle, but that’s exactly what the representatives at Bender’s Rye Whiskey sent us recently. What makes Bender’s Rye so intriguing to us is that it is a local, San Francisco-based brown spirit launched in 2013 on Treasure Island (the landmass separating the Oakland and San Francisco spans of the Bay Bridge).

Bender’s Rye is produced by Treasure Island Distillery, owned by partners Carl Bender, a designer and illustrator who also happened to be a whiskey aficionado, and Christopher Cohen, the blender with over two decades experience of working with small batch wine and spirits. Whole grain rye from Southern Alberta and water from the Sierra Nevada mountain range make up the spirit that is distilled in Alberta then aged for seven years in virgin charred oak barrels. Bender’s Rye is made with a 85% rye and 15% corn mash bill which accounts for it’s spicy taste with a hint of sweetness at the the finish.


The back label clearly shows its San Francisco origins:

We had to take it to the next level and create a couple of cocktails with our “sample” bottle of Bender’s. Noting that the Rye had a spicy palate full of pepper and cloves, we thought that it would pair very well with St. Germain, the French elderflower liqueur that reminiscently tastes of lychees. It turned out to be a spot-on blend that made for two very good cocktails.

We’re calling this first one a French Bender since it blends the Bender’s Rye with two French-based mixers: Dolin Blanc Vermouth and St. Germain. The cocktail itself tastes like a great blend of a Manhattan with the sweetness of an Old-Fashioned.


French Bender
2 oz Bender’s Rye Whiskey
1 oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
0.75 oz Dolin Blanc Vermouth
2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Add all ingredients into a cocktail mixing glass. Add ice and mix until thoroughly chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry.


This second cocktail blends the Bender’s Rye with St. Germain, Aperol and a small amount of Meyer Lemon Juice. We’re calling this one a Bender d’Oro after it’s slightly golden color and as a riff on “treasure.”


Bender d’Oro
2 oz Bender’s Rye Whiskey
0.5 oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
0.5 oz Aperol
0.25 oz Meyer Lemon Juice

Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake the contents until chilled. Double-strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with an orange rind.


We have seen a bottle of Bender’s Rye in many of the restaurant bars that we frequent, so product placement has been great for them. Use the finder on their site to find availability in your area.


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