A drink made by sweetening straight rye whiskey with rock candy and citrus peels, Rock & Rye traces its history back to the 19th century, when stern-faced barkeeps would pour a shot of rye and let customers add their own honey or rock candy, creating a drink similar to an Old Fashioned.
By the turn of the century, Rock & Rye blurred the line between refreshment and remedy. Pharmacists prescribed Rock & Rye to snuff out coughs, colds, sore throats, bronchitis, asthma and pneumonia." No ailment was too great or too small for Rock & Rye's therapeutic relief. In 1890, the Memphis Medicinal Monthly stated that when a man "gets within twenty yards of the door of the saloon he commences coughing, and he puts his hand over his chest with an agonized expression and slips in the door and takes some Rock and Rye."
Rock & Rye's reputation as a panacea continued well after Prohibition. At a 1952 conference for the Common Cold Foundation, Dr. Thomas Ward, a prominent Johns Hopkins virologist, was asked what medicine he preferred to use against rhinovirus. "Personally, my favorite treatment is old Maryland Rock & Rye," he replied. Nearly two decades earlier, Earl Hines and his orchestra recorded a dance chart entitled "Rock and Rye," which was penned by arranger Jimmy Mundy (who was later hired by Benny Goodman).
Inspired by traditional Rock & Rye recipes, Robert Cooper crafted Hochstadter's Slow and Low Rock & Rye. Cooper is a third-generation distiller. His grandfather, Maurice, founded Cooper Brewery in the early 20th century and his father, Sky, worked at Charles Jacquin et Cie, a distillery in Pennsylvania.
Hochstadter's Slow and Low Rock & Rye is made in Philadelphia "the birthplace of Rock & Rye" with a backbone of straight rye whiskey. The whiskey is macerated with orange peels before being infused with a picayune amount of honey. In addition, Cooper adds a hint of horehound — an herbaceous perennial plant often found in lozenges — to his elixir, before each bottle is filled by hand.
Hochstadter's has a mellow, slightly sweet flavor — the notes of spicy rye are nicely balanced with the sweet flavors of citrus, grapefruit and rock candy. Bottled at 84 proof, it has a smooth, long finish with hints of honey and orange.