I’ve written before about applejack and its many virtues. To wit: it’s often very economically priced for its quality, it mixes very well with a variety of ingredients, and it can lay claim to being one of the oldest and most American of spirits. (George Washington once made his own at Mount Vernon, and the Laird family still makes the same basic recipe.) Laird is still the main producer here in America; if you’re looking for something more expensive and imported, you can go with Calvados, but why would you?
I’m always surprised that applejack isn’t used more in bars, and that it hasn’t enjoyed a resurgence now that everyone likes craft cocktails. Applejack can be used pretty much as you’d use any brown liquor. You can pour it into a highball, as you would with whiskey or brandy. You can shake it into a cocktail of your choice (an applejack Manhattan would be quite interesting, and an applejack sidecar would be very similar to the cocktail we’re making today.) You can even drink it on the rocks, or sip it neat from a snifter. (Buy an older bottle if you want to drink it neat; the younger applejack that’s primarily sold under the Laird’s name has a bit of a bite by itself.)
If you’ll be experimenting with applejack, though, you should try a Jack Rose at least once. This is the quintessential applejack cocktail — one that earned mention in Dave Embury’s well-regarded cocktail handbook, and one that best displays the spirit’s virtues without much other adornment.
A couple of quick notes: This drink would work just as well with lemon juice as with lime juice (the lime would be a bit more tart, while the lemon would give you a bit of an aromatic kick from the lemon zest.) And we haven’t talked much about grenadine on this site, but as originally conceived, it’s pomegranate syrup. Rose’s grenadine, the stuff used in most bars, tastes like thick, dull Kool-Aid. It still does basically what grenadine should do — it sweetens the drink — but if you can find a better variety at the store, or if you make your own by dissolving sugar in an equal amount of pomegranate syrup (with an optional dash of orange flower water), your taste buds will thank you for it.
- 2 oz. applejack
- 1 oz. lemon or lime juice (the juice from 1/2 lemon, or 1 lime)
- 1/2 oz. grenadine
- Chill a cocktail glass by storing it in the freezer or filling it with ice. In a cocktail shaker, combine all ingredients over ice.
- Shake to combine.
- Discard any ice used to chill cocktail glass, and strain the cocktail into the chilled glass.