The Rattlesnake cocktail is why rye and absinthe belong together

A little dash’ll do ya.

The Rattlesnake cocktail is why rye and absinthe belong together

In the beginning, there was the Old Fashioned — at least that is what we call it today. In the 1800s, it would likely have been made with rye whiskey — such was the style of the time. The drink was but spirit, bitters, sugar, water. Simple.

It wasn’t long before enterprising bartenders were taking that very simple construction and adding dashes of this and that to the recipe, some sour lemon juice here, a little dash of liqueur there.

That inclination to tinker, to not leave well enough alone, can be both good and bad, as anyone who has judged a cocktail comp (and is honest) will tell you.

But when that inclination caused a bartender to reach for absinthe, to add just a dash of that anise-driven, fragrant herbal spirit to a rye whiskey Sour, well — that was a very good day.

Absinthe and rye whiskey belong together.

Rye and absinthe pair well and pop up often in the annals of cocktail history: there they are in the Remember The Maine cocktail; the Rye Sazerac is incomplete without its aniseed absinthe rinse. You can spot the couple together — along with cognac and sweet vermouth — in the New Orleans classic, the Vieux Carre, and the pairing is there in another classic from the Big Easy, the eponymously titled De La Louisiane; take a Manhattan on rye and add a little absinthe, and you’ve launched into a Meteor.

Rye spirit often carries a note of anise, so there’s no surprise that a little dash of absinthe to your rye cocktail can make it memorable.


The trick is to not go overboard. A quality rye deserves real, Swiss or French absinthe — or bottles made in those styles — and that fluorescent green stuff from the Czech Republic sans wormwood is best avoided.

And if it’s a lighter strength and a touch of sweetness that is required, there’s nothing wrong in swapping the absinthe for pastis — it’s a gentler, softer accompaniment to rye whiskey.

The Rattlesnake is one such cocktail that knows the power of a little dash of this and that. It’s a Whiskey Sour, with a little dash of absinthe to create something more exotic, more memorable.


  • 50ml Elijah Craig Rye
  • 5ml absinthe
  • 22ml lemon juice
  • 22ml sugar syrup
  • 15ml egg white
  • 3 drops aromatic bitters to garnish


Shake all ingredients with ice and without. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Adapted from The Savoy Cocktail Book 1930.

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