While I was working through the Brooklyn Cocktail’s evolution and formula for the previous post, my Bride brought home a couple of bottles of Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye whiskey.

One sip of Pennsylvania rye reminded me that in pre-Prohibition New York, the whiskey in your cocktail was likely very different from the Kentucky-style rye we’re most familiar with these days, like Rittenhouse or Sazerac or Overholt—the ryes I was using in that previous post. The whiskey a Brooklyn drinker encountered a hundred years ago would have been Maryland or Pennsylvania rye, long on barley and malt, perhaps some corn in the Maryland product; more fruity, spicy, and grainy, and often younger and less oakey than modern rye whiskies.

There aren’t many examples of that whiskey around these days. (David Wondrich recently described why they disappeared here and here.) Leopold Bros. has a Maryland-style rye, and Dad’s Hat has a handful of bottlings of Pennsylvania-style rye available in a few markets.

These whiskies, the Maryland and the Pennsylvania (sometimes called “Monongahela”) ryes, present themselves very differently from western, Kentucky-style ryes. The flavor of a Pennsylvania or Maryland rye lies somewhere in the middle ground between Scotch and Bourbon.

If we make a Brooklyn Cocktail with these ryes, but using the proportions we worked out for western ryes in the previous post, we get a very different, and not very good, whiskey-heavy mishmash of a cocktail. The nose is all about barley malt, with very little of the cherry scent that the western ryes encouraged. The initial taste is drier, and much more dominated by the whiskey. Maraschino and Ramazzotti add sweetness, but aren’t particularly identifiable. The aftertaste is barley malt, whiskey, and faintly cherry.

Clearly, the change in flavor profile means that a Brooklyn based on these Eastern ryes needs a completely different formula from the one we published last time.

And here’s where the history of the Brooklyn comes full circle. Jacob Grohusko’s original formula specified equal parts rye whiskey and Italian vermouth—a mixture that we noted (last time) seems far too sweet—but then we were mixing with western ryes.

If we use a good Pennsylvania-style rye—for example, Dad’s Hat 90 proof—the balance changes, and the original one-to-one formula is very close to perfect. What seemed at first glance to be a very sweet cocktail in the style of the Golden Age turns out to be balanced and subtle, and very much in line with the drier tastes of the 21st century.

The Brooklyn Cocktail, made with Dad's Hat 90 proof Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey. Photo © 2018 Douglas M. Ford. All rights reserved.
The Brooklyn Cocktail
The Brooklyn Cocktail
Based onJ A Grohusko, Jack’s Manual, 1908

  • 1½ oz (45 ml) Monongahela-style rye whiskey (Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania rye)
  • 1½ oz (45 ml) Italian vermouth (Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, M&R Rosso)
  • ½ oz (15 ml) Maraschino liqueur (Leopold Bros.)
  • ¼ oz (7.5 ml) Ramazzotti
  • 2–3 dashes orange bitters

Stir with ice until very cold. Strain into a small chilled cocktail stem. Originally served without garnish, but a cherry is an appropriate decoration.

The Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye is a young, 90-proof (45% ABV) whiskey made with 80% rye, 5% malted rye, and 15% malted barley. With such a high percentage of malt, and particularly the unusually high percentage of malted barley, the flavor sensation is much drier than Kentucky-style ryes; I’m no chemist, but I suspect that the high portion of malt is the element that ties together the whiskey flavors and the large proportion of sweet vermouth so elegantly, and keeps the sweetness of the vermouth under control.

This formula ups the portion of Maraschino a bit. A half-ounce is certainly a far cry from Grohusko’s original “dash,” but I think it blends well here if your Maraschino isn’t too sweet, and it helps the cherry scent and flavor to cut through the large proportions of whiskey and vermouth.

Dad's Hat Brooklyn Cocktail (detail), photo © 2018 Douglas M. Ford. All rights reserved.Which gets me thinking about a comment Fred Yarm left on the previous post, about preferring a mellow rye (like Old Overholt) to a more fiery one (like Rittenhouse), because the softer ryes allow the maraschino and amer flavors to express themselves better. That suggests why a Monongahela-style rye works better in the Brooklyn than the Kentucky-style ryes. And while Fred and I don’t see eye to eye on this (yet—maybe I just need to find the right whiskey) when the discussion is purely about Kentucky rye options, Pennsylvania rye whiskey changes the game entirely; the softer (and maltier) profile of the Dad’s Hat makes all the difference in the Brooklyn, so much so that it’s unlikely I would ever make one again with a western-style whiskey.

All of that notwithstanding, current reality is that Monongahela and Maryland ryes are available in only a few markets, and for many, perhaps most, people reading this post, the western, Kentucky-style rye is the only whiskey available. Given that reality, the formula from the previous post gets pretty near to the most realistic Brooklyn Cocktail you’re likely to make at home.

But if the Dad’s Hat 90 proof or other Monongahela or Maryland rye is available in your market, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. A Brooklyn made with high-barley, high-malt rye is a completely different, and in my opinion, completely superior cocktail. If any cocktail can challenge the Manhattan for dark, round “whiskiness,” this is it.