Before Jack Frost is nipping at your toes, look no further than the mighty Jack Rose to warm you up. With an origin story murkier than the Mississippi River, the Jack Rose cocktail – featured in Hemingway’s classic The Sun Also Rises – was once thought to be the invention of the famous gambler and criminal “Bald Jack Rose.” The more likely story is a little less salacious. It is widely thought that the concoction was invented by Frank Haas, a well-known bartender at Eberlin’s bar on Wall Street in the late 1890s, who is also credited with the Daisy (precursor of the Margarita). Spirit lore also suggests the Jack Rose was named for the Applejack spirit used in the cocktail as well as for the grenadine syrup providing its rosy color.
I find this to be a perfect drink to kick off the fall. It may not yet be cold enough for strong and bold Manhattan riffs (don’t worry those are coming soon), but the changing temperature and falling leaves are a great backdrop for exploring the beauty of America’s original spirit, Apple Brandy. Founded by Robert Laird, the origins of Laird’s Apple Brandy go back to 1717 at the Colts Neck Inn near Scobeyville, New Jersey. By 1760, General George Washington would write Mr. Laird asking him for the recipe of his famous “Applejack.” And in 1780 Lairds received the first distilling license in the United States.
As a bartender, one of the first signs of autumn is a customer asking “Do you carry apple brandy?” There are many ways to use it in cocktails (as we’ll see next week) and I’ve found that anyone who enjoys whiskey will find a place in their heart for apple brandy. This drink would make a fine companion for your first fireplace or firepit lighting of the year.
2 oz. Laird’s Apple Brandy
½ oz. Fresh lemon juice
½ oz. Fresh lime juice*
¾ oz. Fresh pomegranate grenadine**
1 Dash Angostura bitters
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously until well chilled. Strain into a coupe – or any glass that suits your fancy – and garnish with a lemon twist, apple slice, or a piece of thyme from the garden. If you have any marigold flowers or have already planted your fall mums, they would also make a fantastic, eye-catching garnish.
Remember, making and drinking cocktails should be a pleasurable experience. If you don’t have the brands listed, don’t be detoured; try it this time with what you have on hand.
*The debate over lemon or lime juice for the Jack Rose is as old as the drink itself, though most accounts mention lime juice as the preferred citrus in the original version of the cocktail. Using lemon and lime juice in a drink can be a fun and refreshing way to add another layer of flavor to your cocktails.
**Real pomegranate grenadine is easy to make and is such a cocktail staple; there’s no need to buy a premade and less delicious version if you have a few minutes to whip it up. Simply add 1 cup of pomegranate juice and 1 cup of sugar in a saucepan and heat over medium heat for 15 minutes to incorporate the sugar. Bottled and kept in the refrigerator, your grenadine will last for a month.
About Mike Wolf
Writer and cocktail innovator Mike Wolf has made a name for himself crafting thoughtful and equally delicious libations inspired by shifting seasons and southern terroir. From building the bar program at Husk alongside venerable chef Sean Brock, to opening the tiki bar, Chopper, to writing Garden to Glass: Grow Your Drinks from the Ground Up and now a second book, Lost Spring: How We Cocktailed Through Crisis, Wolf has maintained a down-to-earth sensibility rooted in his homegrown garden in Nashville, blooming with upwards of 30 different herbs and vegetables dedicated to very best cocktails.