- article by Colleen Graham
May 1, 2016
The liquor industry is filled with iconic personalities. Many of them have spent decades in the business and are responsible for creating and transforming some of the biggest brands in the business.
In recent years, we have seen a younger generation emerge into the spotlight. Geniuses of the distillery with a passion for recreating forgotten spirits and giving us a new taste for our cocktails. Among these innovators was Robert J. Cooper, a third-generation distiller who was instrumental in reviving classic spirits that haven't been seen since our grandparents were young.
Cooper gave us a taste of the heyday of the bar, those times before Prohibition when legendary cocktails like the Martini and Manhattan were born. His company, The Cooper Spirits Co., gave us a gift with spirits like St. Germain - the elderflower liqueur that transformed the modern bar - brought back Creme Yvette, joined the rye whiskey revival and created one of the best rock & ryes we will probably taste.
Sadly, Cooper passed away on April 25, 2016 at the very young age of 39. For those of us in that age group, that is a shocking reality and the phrase 'too young' has been used far too often over the last week.
Yet, he left us a legacy unlike few others. Those that knew him have shared countless stories about his kindness, drive and passion. Those of us who didn't have that pleasure can enjoy his artistry in a number of great cocktails. Cooper was an integral part of the recent cocktail revival and helped revolutionize the way we drink.
The name Hochstadter's may be familiar if you browse enough pre-Prohibition liquor labels. It was a popular brand owned by Charles Jacquin et Cie., which was headed by Cooper's grandfather, Maurice Cooper.
Within the last few years, Robert J. Cooper revived the old-school brand, beginning with Hochstadter's Vatted Straight Rye Whiskey. This blended rye is spectacular and one of the best in available in that style of whiskey today.
Building on that success, the release of Slow & Low, a rock & rye under the Hochstadter's label has been talked about all over the mixing community. Using the brand's original recipe as inspiration, this revitalized liqueur uses an 8-year-old rye whiskey base blended with dried Florida navel oranges, raw Pennsylvania honey, Angostura Bitters and "a small dose of rock candy." (42% ABV - 84 proof, retails for around $22/750ml bottle) If you have tried your hand at homemade rock & rye or been disappointed by the other offerings, this is a bottle you need to get a taste of. It is not too sweet, but has a decidedly dry taste and it is a perfect blend for revisiting some of those great (and often forgotten) rock & rye cocktails. Or, you can enjoy it on its own... it's all good!
The Mint Julep is an iconic cocktail and one that allows the whiskey to shine. It is also the perfect base for adaptation and Hochstadter's Slow & Low is an ideal candidate. The Kentucky Derby is coming up, so it only seems appropriate to transform this signature cocktail and pay tribute to Cooper at the same time.
Tip: If you want to amp up this drink, look for Slow & Low's 100-proof Rock & Rye. It's a full-flavored, limited release that rock & rye fanatics will surely enjoy.
Muddle whiskey and mint in a mixing glass. Add 1 large cube of ice. Stir, but not so much as to dilute - a baker's dozen revolutions.
Add liberal amounts of crushed ice to more than fill the tin cup. Fine strain contents of mix into a glass over crushed ice. Garnish with 6 mint leaves and serve with a straw.
*Note: Demerara is a raw sugar and is often a preferred base for simple syrup. Use the same recipe you always do and simply substitute demerara for the white sugar. You'll find it complements cocktails with darker spirits a little better than normal simple syrup.