Boozehound 101: Jack Rose

Jack Rose
The apple-brandy based Jack Rose is considered by many to be a classic cocktail. — photo by Adrian Scottow via Flickr Creative Commons

Of the essential cocktails listed in David Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, the Jack Rose is probably the one that people are least familiar with — yet it might be one of the most authentic American cocktails in the author’s six pack.

The American roots of the Jack Rose stem from its base liquor: applejack. Applejack — or more precisely, Laird’s applejack — was America’s first liquor. Laird and Company was the first to make apple-based spirit and are the oldest licensed distillery in the United States, receiving the first liquor license from the Treasury Department in 1780.

The founder, Robert Laird, served in the Revolutionary War with none other than George Washington himself, and it turns out that our first President seriously dug Laird’s booze and asked Laird for the recipe. Washington took the recipe back to Virginia, started distilling and bam: applejack everywhere.

The base spirit of the Jack Rose can be a hard thing to find these days though — check the brandy section of your local liquor store for Laird’s applejack. It’s relatively affordable (I snagged a bottle for $19.99 at John’s), pretty drinkable on its own and the history of the stuff makes it even more appealing. (But then again, I’m a history buff.)

The Jack Rose has a murkier history, and its are unclear: Some histories of the cocktail say that it was named after an infamous gambler, while others claim that it gets its name from a specific type of rose (Jacquemot) or a champion bartender from Newark.

Clinton Street Social Club currently has Laird’s applejack, and their bartenders will be able make this relatively simple cocktail. It is also easy to make a Jack Rose yourself: all you need is Applejack, Grenadine and lemon or lime juice. The ratios are two parts applejack, one part juice and half part grenadine. Throw some ice in your shaker (you have one, right?), shake the ingredients, strain into your cocktail glass and serve straight up. The result is a slightly sweet cocktail that doesn’t taste overly boozy.

Enjoy! And tell your friends about it! It seems like everything old becomes new again at some point or another and who knows? Maybe the Jack Rose’s time has come again.

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