Most people know the difference between Scottish and Irish whiskeys but are unaware of the intricacies of American whiskey and bourbon. As history goes, early European settlers initiated the distillation of rye in America, creating the distinctive taste now familiar in global brands such as Jack Daniels (the alcohol label with a Rock-God status). To be classed as straight rye, the mash bill of small grains must contain at least 51% rye, the rest being made up of corn, wheat and barley. Having a spicy, almost fruity flavour means it’s great drunk straight-up on the rocks, and also a fab addition to cocktails.
To start your connoisseuring of rye whiskey then your first stop needs to be Jackson + Rye. This American style restaurant-diner offers one of the best selections of American whiskey and bourbon in London. Jackson + Rye’s bar is a grand centrepiece which embodies a smooth moonlighting feel. You could imagine Columbio elusively sat down one end, pensively sipping a bourbon, or mysterious trench coat laden men with saucy female acquaintances in stockings and heels, giggling and swaying in and out of shadows.
This atmosphere spreads into the dining area with a design inspired by 1920s Brooklyn bars and Manhattan speakeasies, it features plush leather chairs, sophisticated dimmed lighting, dark wood paneling, and subtly placed mirrors.
The Richmond branch of Jackson + Rye holds a prestigious location, raised slightly high on the grassy hill near Richmond bridge, and over-looking the Thames. As many Londoners know, this area in summer becomes a hot-spot for festivities, with live music, performers and lifestyle lovers hanging out on the grass and enjoying an afternoon of alcoholic refreshments. Jackson + Rye’s addition to the area has now added a neat American twist. In between whiskey tastings, there is a choice of food to please everyone.
Opened from breakfast to dinner, American classics such as pancakes, mac & cheese, salt beef hash and steak and eggs will fill you up nicely. The famous toasted Rueben sandwich is great for an easy lunch option. Or go all out and order a sumptuous steak or whole chargrilled lobster. During a recent visit my favourite dishes were the shrimp and grits, deliciously addictive creamed hominy made from corn, and an epic plate of flat iron steak, bone marrow and braised beef pie, it was bordering on rude it was that meaty and good.
My partner took the seafood route ordering oak smoked salmon, watercress sour cream, lemon and rye bread, followed by delicately crumbed lemon sole with green tomatillo and parsley salsa, both executed skilfully. There is also a refreshing wine list featuring reds and whites from the USA, a spicy Petite Syrah 2012 Gnraly Head California matched our steak harmoniously, and also complimented the fish nicely.
To finish the meal we went to the bar for a liquid desert (of course), sampling some of the finest rye whiskies imported to the UK. Recommendations for forthcoming punters are then High West double rye, Sazerao straight rye, Jefferson’s straight rye, and the Smooth Amble Old School Rye, preferably drunk neat, or if you wish on ice. If hard spirits are not your thing then head for the cocktail menu and sample well balanced whiskey-based delights as El Paso Sours with lemon and agave, or a Dark and Stormy with lime bitters and ginger beer. Whatever your choice, Jackson + Rye ignites your inner cowboy.
Jackson + Rye: Richmond Branch: Hotham House, 1 Heron Square TW9 1EJ
Tel: 020 8948 6951
Written by Justina Terese, Food Writer and Recipe Developer www.foodforaking.com