Here’s a random Sunday afternoon concoction. Not so different from an Applejack Sling, it turns out, but richer and more tannic. Almost tea-like.
I’ve had some homemade pimento dram on hand for several months now, but haven’t really put it to much complicated use. It’s delicious just splashed into a rocks glass filled with ice and the brown spirit of your choice, which is how I’ve been been working my way through it to date. Do yourself a favor and make some, if you haven’t already… you can’t buy the stuff in the States these days, and it’s a unique addition anytime you’re in the mood for some tropical spice. There’s a boatload of sugar in it as well, which allows pimento dram to serve as a grenadine or simple syrup would, while delivering its allspice punch.
At any rate, a sunny(ish) April afternoon begged for a long(ish) drink of some sort. I was thinking of a Brandy Presbyterian — one of Dad’s favorites — when the unlabeled bottle of pimento dram caught my eye and begged to be included. As someone who’s baked more than his share of apple pies, this was a drink I couldn’t help but concoct. There are countless recipes said to approximate the flavor of hot apple pie — this one’s more like a nice slab of cold apple pie straight from the icebox: fruity, sour, tannic and spicy. It’s a very quaffable cooler.
In a discussion of Laird’s Applejack, Catherine asks if there’s a definitive recipe for the Jack Rose. I can do no better than to quote David Embury, writing in 1948:
… if you will examine a dozen books of cocktail recipes, you will find formulas varying all the way from applejack and lemon juice half and half with a few dashes of grenadine to applejack and grenadine half and half with a few drops of lemon juice.
I haven’t found quite the diversity of opinion that Embury cites — doubtless his reference library was broader than mine — but there’s nothing approaching unanimity. Embury himself favors a strong:sour:sweet ratio of 8:2:1, his standard for Sours, while Ted Haigh’s recipe in Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails calls for 1.5 oz applejack, 1 oz lemon juice, and “2 or more dashes” of grenadine, yielding a far more sour ratio of something like 12:8:1. The CocktailDB recipe, on the other hand, proposes a 3:1:1 ratio. David Wondrich’s Esquire Drinks opts for 4:2:1, Trader Vic would have the Jack Rose at a startling 2:2:1, and Regan’s Joy of Mixology instructs that we mix at 10:3:x, copping out with “grenadine to taste.”
Wondrich describes his version as “…smooth and sweetish and deeply deceptive. Sipping it, you can’t tell it contains liquor of any kind, let alone applejack.” Having made one à la Wondrich, I can confirm that assessment. Unfortunately, it’s not the drink I’m looking for, and neither is Haigh’s overly-tart version. De gustibus non disputandum est, but I cast my vote for Embury’s, in which the applejack is foremost. Thus, the Slakethirstian Jack Rose is comprised of:
2 oz. applejack
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1/4 oz. grenadine
Shaken and strained.
For their 225th anniversary, Laird and Company have re-branded their flagship product, and not a moment too soon. According to press releases, the packaging was introduced in February of 2005, but it’s only now that the new bottles are appearing on Portland-area shelves. That it took nine months for the old stock to turn over suggests that either the OLCC buys its applejack in considerable bulk, or — more likely — that applejack’s popularity is at a very low ebb.
Lairds’ packaging was terribly overdue for a refresh … for as long as I can remember, their trade dress has been stuck in a sort of mid-’70’s American Bicentennial mode of faux woodblock type on a greenish-brown coated paper label, adhered to dark brown glass. To my eye it was the product of a company whose marketing department had fallen into a thirty-year slumber. This didn’t prevent me from buying it — a man must have his Jack Roses — but it certainly wasn’t enticing new consumers to the only commercially-produced applejack left in America. As can be seen, the new packaging is clear glass, to better display the liquor, and takes advantage of pressure-sensitive adhesive films for the “label-less look,” front and back. It’s clean and updated, but historically informed — really a remarkably executed redesign, considering the torpor the brand had fallen into. I hope it bodes well for the spirit.
Is it frivolous to offer a disquisition on a package design? Not, I think, in this case … a wretched looking bottle can only hurt sales, and since as goes the Laird’s brand, so goes the spirit, it’s important that the brand thrive. I very much want the Lairds, now in their 9th generation of distilling, to continue producing applejack for generations to come. If someday I can walk into a random barroom and order a Jack Rose without fear of failure, the world will have become a marginally better place.
Related: The Jack Rose
Fill large Bar glass ¾ full Shaved Ice.
3 dashes Gum Syrup.
3 dashes Raspberry Syrup.
1¼ jiggers Applejack.
Shake; strain into Cocktail glass and serve with piece of Lemon Peel twisted on top.
Use large Mixing glass; fill with Lump Ice.
1 jigger Apple Jack Brandy.
1 pony Italian Vermouth.
Stir well; strain and serve in Cocktail glass.