3 Patriotic Cocktails to Make with America's Native Spirit: Applejack

By Carey Jones and John D. McCarthy |

© Carey Jones

With Fourth of July upon us, let’s pay homage to America’s original spirit. Not bourbon, not even rum. Applejack. Specifically, Laird’s Applejack. 

Founded in Scobeyville, New Jersey, Laird’s is America’s oldest licensed distillery, turning apples into booze since 1780. (And we mean oldest licensed: they hold Distilling License No. 1 from the Department of the Treasury.) True story: George Washington once asked founder Robert Laird for his “cyder spirits” recipe. 

Laird’s straight bonded apple brandy, at 100 proof, is made entirely from apples. What you’re more likely to find in your store is the 80 proof applejack, which contains apple brandy and neutral grain spirits, too. We prefer the bonded, but they’re both worth getting to know. With the weight of a whiskey but a distinct apple taste, applejack is ideal for mixing—as you’ll see in these three cocktails. 

Easy: Applejack Old-Fashioned

The old-fashioned is a classic for a reason: Its simple combination of whiskey, sugar and bitters really lets the spirit shine. For our first applejack cocktail, we kept things simple—using applejack as the base spirit and maple syrup for a sweetener that matches beautifully. 

Instructions: In a mixing glass with ice, stir together 2 ounces of applejack, ½ ounce of maple syrup, 2 dashes of Angostura bitters and 2 dashes of orange bitters. Strain over fresh ice. Squeeze a thick orange peel over the glass to release its citrus oils, and use it as a garnish. Repeat the process with a lemon peel. 

Intermediate: Peaches

While applejack hails from Jersey, we dipped down below the Mason-Dixon for inspiration for this peachy cocktail. This is a great candidate to make by the pitcher. 

Instructions: Cut ¼ of a fresh, ripe peach it into chunks, then muddle it in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add ¾ ounce of fresh lemon juice, ½ ounce of honey syrup (honey cut with an equal amount of hot water) and 1½ ounces of applejack. Shake it all together with ice; double-strain (pour it through a fine strainer) into a tall glass with fresh ice, and top with 1 ounce of club soda. Garnish with fresh peach slices. 

Advanced: Jack Rose

This longtime classic has everything going for it: a boozy base cut with the fresh burst of citrus and the intriguing sweetness of grenadine. The original recipe calls for lime juice; we like a mix of lime and lemon, but either will work nicely. Rather than the neon-red bottled stuff, we’ll teach you how to make real grenadine, which is about the easiest cocktail ingredient to create at home. 


For the grenadine: Start with 100 percent pomegranate juice—not the kind cut with other ingredients or with sugar added. Pour equal parts of juice and white sugar (say, 1 cup of each) into a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once it boils, reduce it to a simmer and it cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, then let the mixture cool. Presto: You’ve made grenadine. It’ll last at least a week or two in the fridge, and pretty much forever in the freezer. 

For the cocktail: In a shaker with ice, combine 2 ounces of applejack, ½ ounce of fresh lemon juice, ½ ounce of fresh lime and ½ ounce of your fresh grenadine. Shake that all up and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with lime and lemon wheels. 

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