Rock and Rye Whiskey

Rock and rye whiskey recipe

​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Infusion: 168 hrs
Total: 168 hrs 10 mins
Servings: 25 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
85 Calories
0g Fat
3g Carbs
0g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 25
Amount per serving
Calories 85
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 1mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 3g 1%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Protein 0g
Calcium 9mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Rock and rye is a liqueur made of rye whiskey and rock candy accented with citrus and spices. The crystallized sugar cuts the whiskey's spice notes, creating a mellower blend of spicy and sweet. It is an infusion and ready to drink within a week. Once finished, enjoy it on its own, on the rocks, in a cup of tea, or try it in your favorite whiskey cocktail (it makes an excellent John Collins).

Rock and rye is an old-timey recipe that was enjoyed throughout the 19th century and was said to cure whatever ails you. It dipped in popularity over the years, but with the recent resurgence of rye whiskey, it has found a new following of fans. Even several commercially produced rock and ryes are available, but it's very easy to make it yourself and tailor it to your own taste.

This rock and rye recipe includes all of the popular elements in the traditional liquor. Most are common ingredients; the only exception is ​horehound. This herb has long been used to aid digestion and is likely one of the keys to rock and rye's original success as a medicinal tonic. You can follow this recipe with or without horehound; in fact, many versions leave it out. 

Ingredients

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for rock and rye whiskey
    ​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  2. In a large container, add the whiskey, rock candy, clove, and horehound.

    Infuse whiskey
    ​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  3. Allow the mixture to infuse in a cool, dark place for about three days.

    Allow mixture to infuse
    ​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  4. Add the remaining ingredients and steep for an additional one to two days (or longer), to taste.

    Infusing whiskey
    ​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  5. Once the whiskey has reached the desired flavor, strain out the fruits and spices and then bottle the whiskey.

    Strain out spices and fruits
    ​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  6. Serve and enjoy.

    Rock and rye whiskey
    ​The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Tips

  • Using a good rye whiskey is essential, but it doesn't have to be the absolute best. There are many midrange rye whiskeys available that work perfectly.
  • The longer the rock candy sits in the whiskey, the more the flavors will meld. It is important to test the infusion periodically until it gets to your desired flavor intensity.
  • The finished rock and rye should be bottled under a tight seal. The original whiskey bottle works well, as does a Mason jar or any glass bottle that seals out air. 
  • Once strained and bottled, rock and rye keeps well for up to two months in the refrigerator. 

Recipe Variations

  • Use orange slices instead of lemon or a combination of the two citrus fruits.
  • A few pineapple chunks are a good alternative to the apricot.
  • Rather than rock candy, many modern rock and rye recipes use honey, simple syrup, or a flavored syrup (syrup from a jar of high-end cherries is popular). Use 2 to 3 tablespoons and stir it into the whiskey.

How Strong Is Rock and Rye?

The rock candy will infuse its sweetness into the whiskey and, much like a liqueur, this will cut the alcohol content down. However, it's not going to be significant and will vary from one batch to the next. Assume that your finished rock and rye is nearly identical to the bottling strength of the whiskey you use to make it.

Is There a Rock and Rye Cocktail?

In the 1930 "Savoy Cocktail Book," Harry Craddock lists a rock and rye cocktail. The recipe dissolves a piece of rock candy in a glass of rye or Canadian whiskey and adds the juice of a whole lemon as an option. Since then, other rock and rye cocktails have been created. Many include orange and lemon juices and are rather sweet, often replacing the rock candy with one or two syrups. The cocktail versions typically do not include spices.

Will Rock and Rye Cure a Cold?

Like many distilled spirits, particularly herbal liqueurs, rock and rye was used as a medicinal tonic. It was a regular fixture in pharmacies around the 1870s but reclassified as a distilled spirit in 1883. Around the turn of the 20th century, some makers once again added claims that it would cure colds, congestion, and all sorts of illnesses. Marketing it as a remedy was often a way to get around the higher taxes associated with recreational alcohol and the growing temperance movement. However, there is no cure for the common cold, and it is unlikely that drinking rock and rye is a remedy for any ailment.