My first shot of rock & rye came after spinning a boozy wheel of fortune in a Bywater warehouse, hoping the needle would bypass other shots. Rock & rye has its roots in 19th-century saloons, when Americans high on domestic rye would get it blended with strands of rock candy.
By 1884, a bottled version appeared, and this is the family recipe on which third-generation distiller Rob Cooper has based his Hochstadter's Slow & Low: amber, aged rye whiskey blended with rock candy syrup and infused with honey, orange peel, and horehound candy, which acts as an herbal, bittering agent.
It's vaguely sweet, and streaked with heat. (Cooper first developed Slow & Low in a 98 proof formula; his latest version is a more palatable 84 proof.) The name's derived from the technique of leisurely stirring the Rock & Rye over a faint fire.
As a vintage recipe and one easy pour (take it chilled and neat), Slow & Low "bridges the gap between craft cocktail and high-volume bars," says Ali Mills, a brand rep for Cooper Spirits and bartender at The Saint.
She's also a founder of Dash & Pony, the speakeasy set up in that warehouse, where I got a lucky spin of the wheel.
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