The Jack Rose is a pre-prohibition (like, seriously OG) New Jersey classic cocktail we’re re-imagining to be solidly West Coast. It’s a little known drink (and surprisingly has NOTHING to do with our favorites from the Titanic) that will be widely popular with your friends once introduced. It’s fairly sweet but still pretty stiff, so it packs a pretty little punch. Speaking of punch, PUNCH describes the drink as so:
According to David Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, the Jack Rose was, during the mid-20thcentury, a pillar of basic cocktail-mixing knowledge. The origin of its name is disputed: some credit it to an early 20th-century hit man called “Bald Jack Rose,” while others connect it to Jersey City bartender Frank J. May, who was also known as Jack Rose. What is certain is that the Jack Rose is a New Jersey cocktail through and through. Its American apple brandy base, applejack (a.k.a. “Jersey Lightning”), is one of the country’s oldest continuously-produced spirits and Laird’s in New Jersey remains its largest producer to this day.
As this article makes clear, this is a New Jersey cocktail that goes way back. The original version calls for grenadine, lemon juice, and applejack. We’re more interested in bringing it back to the future, and rooting it firmly in our own region’s splendor with the addition of locally grown rhubarb simple syrup from Sumner, WA, the rhubarb capitol of the world. To bring the cocktail all the way back around to the apple state, we recommend also trying a locally made apple brandy.
Where there are cider companies, brandy distilling is sure to follow, and as cider making is exploding in Washington, several distilleries in the state have released apple brandies as well. I may just have to plan a personal tasting tour of the options next Spring, because just writing this blog post has me thirsty for more history and more brandy!
The history of cider and brandy making in America is absolutely fascinating, as the two used to be the most prevalent and common alcohol consumed, during a time when our young nation consumed an estimated THREE times the amount of alcohol that we do today. The temperance movement, prohibition, modern farm practices, and urban growth have all affected the apple industry significantly, even more so the growth of cider apples (a more bitter variety than those grown for juice and fruit.) The result was, for a long time, we didn’t drink very much cider in the USA, and the long tradition of brandy making was upheld by only a few purveyors.
Thankfully, as PUNCH mentioned above, one of these was Laird’s. For a quick trip into apple brandy land, if you’ve never tried it before, a bottle of Laird’s will totally do the trick. It’s readily available and inexpensive at places like Total Wine and More so you can try this recipe right away. Just be sure to sub in the rhurbarb vanilla syrup for the grenadine, or at the very least, make your own grenadine. Commercial grenadines such as Rose’s that you may have in your fridge will taste far too sweet.
Speaking of sweet, it doesn’t get cuter, or more questionable in appropriateness, than Hayes playing mixologist with the jigger as I try to make this drink in the video below!
the Simple Goodness Sisters’ Jack Rose Cocktail
- 2 ounces of Laird’s applejack
- 3/4 ounce rhubarb vanilla simple syrup from Simple Goodness Sisters
- 1/2 ounce lemon juice
- 1 dash orange bitters or, if you prefer, Peychaud’s aromatic bitters
- 1 lemon twist
To Make the Cocktail:
Add 1 dash bitters, Laird’s applejack, rhubarb vanilla syrup, and fresh squeezed lemon juice to a cocktail shaker full of ice. Shake until the outside of the shaker is chilled and strain the cocktail into a fresh, chilled glass. Finish by twisting a lemon peel over the glass to release citrus oils into the cocktail. Garnish with an edible flower sugar rim or fresh edible flowers if available.