Jack Rose + apple brandy
The Jack Rose is a positively ancient cocktail that was very popular a century ago but has gradually faded into relative obscurity. More’s the pity as it can be quite delightful when well made. It’s a cocktail that I neglected for a long time due to the unavailability of its base ingredient upon these shores. Applejack (aka Jersey Lightning) is an American apple brandy that turns out to be not even particularly available on its own shores with just one surviving mainstream* brand – Laird’s. However, whilst perusing my copy of David A. Embury’s 1948 classic cocktail manual The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks a solution emerged. Embury is of the opinion (and boy, does he have a lot of those) that calvados is a similar but superior apple brandy. Doh. It was so obvious! Aged French apple brandy in hand I proceeded to mix up the cocktail that I should really have tried a long time ago. And, damn, but isn’t the Jack Rose a delicious and deceptively simple little cocktail. Just apple brandy, lemon juice and grenadine but, make no mistake, quality of ingredients is key here and possibly the reason the Jack Rose fell from grace. Decent quality commercially available grenadine is a thing of the past and, while I can’t say for certain, the same may be at least partially true of applejack. America’s first home-grown spirit was originally made by repeatedly freezing (hard) apple cider and chucking away the ice – a process known as “jacking” – a kind of distillation-free way of making a potent liquor. These days applejack is made by distillation of apple juice and then mixing it with neutral spirit. On the other hand calvados is a traditionally made and aged apple brandy from the Normandy region of France that is available and affordable here in Europe. And if Embury says it’s better than applejack that’s good enough for me. After all he was a lawyer (as well as a the author of the first “modern” cocktail book) so we know we can trust him. Indeed the Jack Rose is one of his hallowed six classic cocktails along with the Daiquiri, Old Fashioned, Sidecar, Manhattan and Martini. Illustrious company. Mr Embury liked his cocktails notoriously dry/tart so we’ll go with his suggestion of balancing them to our own taste. This version hits the spot for me and I think you’ll like it too.
2oz/60ml apple brandy (applejack or calvados)**
1oz/30ml fresh lemon juice.
0.5oz/15ml grenadine, very preferably home-made.
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled champagne coupe.
Garnish with a lemon twist.
Toast David Embury (1886 – 1960), the greatest ever amateur cocktail-head.
*I say mainstream because there is absolutely certain to be some hipsters making some “small batch”, “artisanal” applejack somewhere.
**in either case preferably reasonably aged.