By Carey Jones and John D. McCarthy
Updated November 22, 2016
Credit: Carey Jones

Applejack, the original American spirit, is hands-down our favorite this time of year. (Not that we don’t love it the rest of the year, too.) And the best of the bunch is Laird’s straight bonded apple brandy.

America’s oldest licensed distillery — they quite literally hold license 001 — Laird’s is a family-owned company in Scobeyville, New Jersey, where it’s been since 1780. Their Blended Applejack is tasty, inexpensive, and widely available. But we like their Straight Apple Brandy even better. Up at 100 proof, it’s made from nothing but apples, and wow, does it taste it. Vivid apple flavor in the body of a weighty brown wood-aged spirit. Give it a try in these three cocktails.

Easy: Old Fashioned

When we love an aged spirit, odds are we’ll take it for a spin in an Old Fashioned. The combo of booze, sugar and bitters really lets the spirit shine. We’re keeping things simple here, using applejack as a base and maple syrup for a sweetener.

Instructions: In a mixing glass with ice, stir together 2 ounces of applejack, 1/2 an 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: Applejack Sparkler

Want a Thanksgiving day cocktail that won’t make you feel too guilty when you start putting ‘em back while you watch the Macy’s Parade? Try this sparkler. Cranberries are a great pair for the apples, and they keep the whole drink very dry rather than sweet… and we know you have cranberries around this time of year.

Instructions: In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, muddle 20 whole fresh cranberries. Add ice, plus 1 ounce of Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy, 1/2 an ounce of simple syrup, and a 1/4 ounce of fresh lemon juice. Add 5 dashes of orange bitters. Shake all that up until well-chilled, then double-strain (through the shaker’s own strainer and a fine mesh strainer) into a flute or wine glass. Top with 2 ounces of bubbles. Garnish with a few cranberries.

Advanced: How D’You Like ’Dem Apples

Unsurprising: Applejack pairs well with apples. And they both come to life with a little lemon juice and honey. It’s a no-brainer, but adding just a little real apple brings all the spirit’s flavors to life.

Instructions: In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, muddle 1/4 of an apple — we like Honeycrisp here. Add ice, plus 1 1/2 ounces of Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy, 3/4 ounce lemon juice, and 1/2 ounce of honey syrup (that’s 1 part honey stirred together with 1 part hot water, so it dissolves more easily). Shake until very well-chilled, then double-strain (through the shaker’s own strainer and a fine mesh strainer) into a rocks glass with ice. Garnish with thin apple slices.