I love rock and rye. I love it. I have memories of my great grandmother (a wrought iron Irishwoman from the cliffs of Donegal who spent her dotage describing her Floridian home as a golden harp with no strings “beautiful and bloody worthless”) slipping me some as a child when I had a cold. There was an eternal mason jar labeled “R&R” in the cabinets for a quick nip whenever the adults needed one or thought the children weren’t looking. For our part, the children learned to fake cold symptoms whenever it was just “Big Nana” in the house, as she would administer a tot as quickly as possible to avoid the disapproving clucks of her progeny.
(As a brief aside, due to this I was convinced that whenever people used the term “I could use a little R&R” they were talking about going out to drink until I was in my late 20s. I misused it dozens of times, but the sentiments are analogous enough that no one ever called me up on it.)
When I first saw Slow and Low on the shelves I was ecstatic. I was slightly disappointed in the result as too cloying, but I keep a bottle on the shelves at all times for a quick to go cocktail or coffee additive. I am not at all a fan of the Mr. Katz version, though I do enjoy the cherry notes, and the dark fruits are more reminiscent of the old recipes that grab me by the nostalgia.
I’m sure that Big Nana got the recipe from either a Florida or Massachusetts neighbor, as family from Ireland always treated it as a novelty when visiting. Unfortunately, my grandmother cannot find the recipe in her (meticulously organized and actually quite impressive) recipe card library, and no one living remembers anything about it other than its flavor. I’ve tried nearly half a dozen recipes from various online sources but nothing even comes close. The mix of sweet and citrus, stone fruit and punchiness are all wrong.
I am reaching out to see if anyone has any good sources for older, localized Rock and Rye recipes. I’ve found a few in the EUVS archives, but I don’t have much experience in researching old newspapers or local rags for such recipes. New England papers would be most likely source if one is to be found. I’m sure I’ll have to adjust (Big Nana was fond of and aggressively proud of Bushmill’s, I’m positive that she would have added at least some to her recipe, to fly the flag if for no other reason), but I am looking for a spice profile that comes closer.