The Jack Rose cocktail was created around the turn of the 20th century. Its origin is ambiguous, but reports peg its creation to either New York or New Jersey, which tracks considering the drink’s base spirit was likely Laird’s Applejack, an apple brandy made in New Jersey at the oldest licensed distillery in the U.S. The drink quickly found fans and enjoyed a popular run through Prohibition and even among prominent authors—it was a known favorite of John Steinbeck and made an appearance in Hemingway’s 1926 book “The Sun Also Rises.” It was also included as one of six basic drinks to know in David Embury’s 1948 book “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks.”
Taking its name from its main ingredient and its rosy color, the Jack Rose is composed of applejack (or apple brandy), lemon juice and grenadine. Before 1968, applejack was synonymous with apple brandy. It was only when consumer preferences started moving towards lighter products like vodka and gin that applejack’s distinct identity took shape. The Lairds worked with the government to establish a new federal standard for blended apple brandy, and as a result, applejack is now defined as a blend of at least 20% apple distillate with neutral grain spirit that must be aged at least two years in oak.
Applejack has a mellower flavor than straight apple brandy. Laird’s is still the go-to, but today there are several distilleries—particularly in the northeastern United States—that are producing applejacks and American apple brandies.
Applejack provides a subtly fruity base to the Jack Rose that merges effortlessly with the lemon and grenadine. Good grenadine is essential when making the cocktail, as it’s the only source of sweetness to balance the liquor and citrus. Skip the bright-red bottled versions that are laden with artificial ingredients, and instead try making your own with pomegranate juice and sugar. It’s simple and effective.
- 1 1/2 ounces applejack or apple brandy
- 3/4 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 1/2 ounce grenadine
- Garnish: lemon twist
Add the applejack, lemon juice and grenadine into a shaker with ice, and shake until well-chilled.
Fine-strain into a coupe glass, and garnish with a lemon twist.