Our favorite version is made by America's very first distillery.

By Carey Jones and John D. McCarthy
Updated July 17, 2017
Carey Jones

This summer, we’re rediscovering one of the native spirits of the USA: Apple brandy. Distilled from apples, then aged in barrels, it’s similar in weight and sweetness to a bourbon, but with an unmistakable orchard flavor. (Blend that apple brandy with neutral grain spirits, and you’ve got applejack. Both are worth seeking out.)

Several brands have released some version of applejack or apple brandy in the last few years. But as far as American spirits go, Laird & Company creates our favorite of them all. The oldest family-owned commercial distillery in the US (dating back to 1780) the Jersey-based outfit holds America’s very first distilling license.

They bottle a fabulous applejack — but if you’re really looking for a flavor hit, opt for their 100-proof Straight Apple Brandy, distilled from apples and absolutely nothing else. Bright, dynamic, and full of flavor, it’s ideal for when you’re after a drink with the heft of a whiskey cocktail, but one that’s vibrant enough for the summer. Give it a whirl in one of these three new cocktails.

Easy: Apples & Rhubarb

Carey Jones

We’re all about high-quality canned drinks as mixers, and after we tasted Cawston Press Rhubarb and Apple Sparkling Juice we thought, this would be killer with apple brandy. This drink comes together in two seconds, and it might be the best two-ingredient cocktail you’ll sip this summer.

Instructions: In a tall glass with ice, combine 1 1/2 ounces of Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy and 3 ounces of Cawston Press Rhubarb and Apple Sparkling Juice. Stir briefly and garnish with a few very thin apple slices.

Intermediate: Apple Brandy Old-Fashioned

Carey Jones

We love featuring any brown spirit in the context of an Old Fashioned. Since the cocktail is so simple — just a spirit (traditionally, whiskey), plus a little sweetener and bitters to balance it all out — it’s easy to appreciate the starring ingredient.

Apple brandy on its own, or even applejack, makes an excellent Old Fashioned; but to get a little more innovative, adding dark rum ups the ante. A great rum (the Venezuelan Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva is our first choice) works beautifully with the apple brandy, smooth and just faintly sweet in an apples-and-vanilla kind of way.

Instructions: In a mixing glass with ice, stir together 1 ounce of Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy, 1 ounce of Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva, 1/4 ounce of demerara syrup (Sugar in the Raw dissolved in an equal part of hot water), 1 dash of Angostura bitters and 1 dash of orange bitters. Strain over fresh ice. For the garnish, take a thick lemon peel, squeeze it over the glass to release its citrus oils, and add as a garnish; add a second if you’re feeling fancy.

Advanced: Apple Brandy ’75

Carey Jones

We love a French ’75 made with Cognac — the iconic French brandy — so we thought, why not with apple brandy? Laird’s, lemon, and sparkling wine create one of the most refreshing drinks you’ve ever tasted, a beautiful rendition of the classic.

Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine 1 1/2 ounces of Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy, 3/4 ounce of fresh lemon juice, and 1/2 an ounce of simple syrup. Shake that all up, strain it into a cocktail glass, and top with 1 1/2 ounces of sparkling wine. Garnish with a thin lemon slice and a thin apple slice.