I have a pretty well-stocked bar. Whiskies, gins, amari, rums, bitters, you name it. It's quite a luxury to be able to whip up a variety of new and delicious cocktails whenever the mood strikes. But there are days when I don't want to think about what I'm going to drink or what to make for a party. For the past month, those days have meant a tall pour of today's booze over ice: Hochstadter's Slow & Low Rock and Rye.
While the full name is quite a mouthful, and the marketing campaign skews a little sleazy, Slow & Low is a wonderful addition to the cocktail-in-a-bottle category. Produced by Cooper Spirits (of St Germain and Lock, Stock, and Barrel Rye), it's a revival of the rock and rye, one of the first American cocktails touted for its medicinal properties.
A mixture of rye, rock candy, citrus, and bitter herbs, the cocktail became a staple in barrooms and medicine cabinets across the land (see Eric Felten's excellent WSJ piece for further edification). And while medicine may have made a few advances since the late 19th century, the rock and rye has stood the test of time as a tasty drink.
Slow & Low takes a blend of straight rye whiskeys as its base. Though there's no age statement on the bottle, I'm told the blend is structured around a 6 year straight rye as the foundation, with additional ryes from 2 to 10 years old for heat and balance. It's then macerated with citrus peels (air-dried lemon, grapefruit, Florida navel oranges), pure cane rock candy, raw Pennsylvania honey, and horehound, an herb found in vintage cough drops and bitters, and bottled at 84 proof.
Served neat, the sweet scent of honey mingles well with the bitter citrus and rye spices, and the horehound gives it a touch of earthiness. The sugar and honey dominate the citrus and rye spices a bit, but the heat of the whiskey helps it to finish clean and dry.
I prefer Slow & Low on the rocks, or better yet on the one-big-rock, as the chill factor tames the sweetness and brings the whole affair straight into surprisingly tasty pre-mixed cocktail territory.
It's also fun to experiment with Slow & Low as a canvas for bitters—a few dashes of your favorite cocktail seasoning really elevates the drink to seductively delicious status. I'm a fan or aromatic or citrus bitters here, but let your imagination be your guide.
If it's the kind of drink you can see yourself reaching for over and over or you're planning on hosting a group, the price is definitely right—I've seen as low as $17 online, and my neighborhood fancy wine shop has it at $25. A cocktail of this caliber could easily set you back $8 to 10 at a bar, but a bottle with 10 to 15 healthy pours brings it back well under $2, and it's dangerously easy to serve up a round to guests in seconds flat.
About the author: Andrew Strenio is a lover of all things potable. Since sneaking his grandmother's bourbon balls, he's moved on to touring distilleries and sipping snifters. He works by day making documentary television and films as an independent producer in Brooklyn.
Tasting sample provided for review consideration.