You may have heard of applejack. Or Jersey Lightning, as the colonists referred to it. It is an American original, possibly the first unique liquor to be distilled in the United States. The colonists loved their cider. It is rumored that John Adams started every day with a hard cider, and no one in that time thought much if the children were having it. William Laird, originally from Scotland, utilized his skills as a distiller on the abundant apple product in the colonies to create an American apple brandy. He used freeze distillation, or "jacking", to increase the proof of the cider by removing the water. "Applejack", as it came to be known, was used to pay workers during colonial times. George Washington was a fan, and was able to get the recipe for his own distilling. In its original form, it has a light scent of apples. Laird's was one of the last producers of applejack until the cocktail boom happened, bringing many rare liquors back from the brink.
Applejack is the liquor that is used in the creation of the Jack Rose cocktail. The cocktail, which was popular during the run up to Prohibition, has a shady past. Was it named after Bald Jack Rose, a criminal involved in a murder case? Was it named after Joseph Rose, it supposed creator and once dubbed a "World Champion Mixologist"? Or was it named after the fact it was made with AppleJACK and turned a ROSE color when made? The theories abound, but one thing is for sure; it is one of the few cocktails made with applejack as the main spirit. It made a brief resurgence after Prohibition, when Dave Embury (1948) named it as one of Six Basic Cocktails every bartender should know. After that it faded into obscurity, mainly because "the fact that it is sold before it is well aged" (p. 130). The Laird's Applejack you can easily find now is just 35% apple brandy. The rest is neutral grain spirit. Laird's does offer an apple brandy which is closer to the original product.
The Jack Rose is considered by many bartenders as a sour because it comes very close to the composition of this drink category: spirit, citrus, and something to sweeten it up. Unlike most other sours, the Jack Rose uses grenadine as the sweetening agent, not sugar or simple syrup. Some modern recipes call for simple syrup to balance the lemon or lime, since pomegranates have their own tartness they add to the cocktail.
2 oz./60 mL applejack or other apple brandy
.75 oz. mL lemon juice
.25 oz./8 mL grenadine
Garnish: Lemon Twist
Pour all of the ingredients into a mixing tin. Shake vigorously, and strain into the cocktail glass. You can frost the glass for extra effect if you wish.
Because of the low amount of apple brandy in the Applejack, the apple flavor was not as forward as I would have liked. I experimented with Cavaldos, a French made fine apple brandy. The apple flavor was much more pronounced and made a smoother cocktail. However, the Cavaldos is twice as expensive as the Applejack. And Applejack is called for in the original recipes. If you can hunt down the apple brandy Laird's makes, it will really bring the apple flavor forward. You can also add more grenadine to improve the sweetness. Making it home made is not difficult: take one cup of pomegranate juice (POM is fine to use) and one cup of sugar an make a simple syrup. You can add two tsp. of rose water or the zest of a medium orange for more depth.