Rye whiskey makes the endangered food list

In tandem with National Bourbon Month, bourbon's best friend, rye whiskey, has fallen on hard times. According to Slow Food USA's Ark of Taste list--a compilation of 200 plus food items designed to alert communities to endangered crops--the grain used to make American rye whiskey needs immediate attention.

The criteria used to add items to the list include:

  • at risk biologically or as a cultural tradition
  • linked culturally or historically to a specific region, ethnicity or traditional production practice
  • have sustainable market potential

    According to Slow Food USA, rye whiskey's importance has a historical context:

    Rye whiskey's transition from an American staple to an American relic started with the loss of rye fields after prohibition, and aided by the later rise of alternative liquors, including imported whiskey. Truly an American invention, rye whiskey is only used with American-grown rye as its primary grain/mash.

    As drink geeks know, rye whiskey is an important ingredient in classic cocktails like the Sazerac, and, according to most cocktail guides, was used in the original recipe for the old-fashioned (although bourbon is commonly used now.)

    The other three items added to the list along with American rye are the Bodega red potato, the Red McClure potato, and the Nancy Hall sweet potato.

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