Rye Coffee Cocktail

Bartender Al Culliton uses cold brew and rye whiskey for a make-ahead cocktail perfect for a group

Are you camping in a low-bandwidth area? Before you hit the road, download or print this recipe so you’ll have it on hand.

Al Culliton always serves coffee with amaro or aged spirits after a dinner party. “Why,” they ask, “should camping be any different?” For this batch cocktail, Culliton took inspiration from “the rustic colonial taverns of the North, where rye whiskey, coffee, bitters, spices, and citrus would have been stocked for both medicinal and recreational purposes,” they explain. Back then, they add, roasted rye grain was also used as an inexpensive substitute for coffee, giving the pairing here an added layer of historical kinship. Campside, the purported medicinal properties of both coffee and rye whiskey are likely to feel quite real after a long day in the woods. And as an added virtue, the whole cocktail can be made a few days ahead and stored in a cooler so that it’s ready to go as soon as you are.

Rye Coffee Recipe

Makes 20 fluid ounces

Serves 4 


1 cup (8 fluid ounces) rye whiskey, such as Old Overholt, Wild Turkey Rye, or Redemption

¾ cup (6 fluid ounces) cold-brew coffee concentrate (feel free to use decaf)

⅓ cup (3 fluid ounces) Ginger Lime Syrup (see recipe below)

¼ cup (2 fluid ounces) water

1 teaspoon Angostura bitters

1 cinnamon stick (optional)


Step 1

Combine all the ingredients except the cinnamon stick in a large jar or bottle and stir. Screw on the lid and keep refrigerated or on ice in your cooler for up to 4 days. 

Step 2

To serve, gently swirl the cocktail in the jar before pouring into enamel camping mugs or small jars. Add ice, if desired. Grate fresh cinnamon on top just before serving.

Ginger Lime Syrup

Makes about 2 cups


4 limes

2 tablespoons chopped ginger

1 cup boiling water

1 cup sugar 

1 teaspoon kosher salt


Step 1

Zest the limes using a microplane; this should yield about ⅓ cup zest, not tightly packed. Put the zest and ginger in a food processor or blender and set aside. Squeeze the limes and set aside the juice to be used in the Riverside Fire Society punch.

Step 2

In a separate bowl or measuring cup, combine the boiling water with the sugar, and stir until dissolved. Add to the food processor or blender and blend for 30 seconds. 

Step 3

Strain the mixture through a fine-meshed sieve into a clean jar. Let cool in the refrigerator, cover, and store for up to 6 weeks.

Al Culliton is a writer, bartender, and cocktail historian based in western Massachusetts. Dina Avila is a photographer in Portland, Oregon.
Recipe tested by Ivy Manning

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