MxMo LVIII : Jack Rose

Been pretty sick the last month or so, which really has limited the tippling and the tipple blogging. I am finally over the last dregs of a spring flu, just in time for a Bay Area heat wave – that week or so in late June or early July when we get the kinds of sun, shorts and swimming weather that the rest of the country gets to enjoy all summer long. Which has me in the mood for crisp, icy shaken drinks as well as highballs.

Mixology Monday has rolled around and this month’s host Filip at Adventures in Cocktails has chosen Niche Spirits as his theme. He describes the theme as:

“…any cocktail where the base ingredient is not bourbon, gin, rum, rye, tequila, vodka etc would qualify. So whether you choose Mezcal or Armagnac get creative and showcase your favorite niche spirit.”

In rummaging around my liquor cabinet, I spied a bottle of applejack that I hadn’t touched in a while. Applejack is an American original – an apple brandy that dates to Colonial times that is a rougher, more rustic version of Calvados. It was made by concentrating hard cider through freeze distillation, also known as “jacking”. Today, applejack is made by one company – Laird’s, a company founded by William Laird, a Scotsman who settled in New Jersey in the late 1600s. His descendant’s would serve under George Washington (the only person outside the family to ever be given the recipe for Laird’s applejack) and found the country’s first licensed distillery. To this day, a goodly percentage of their “Jersey Lighting” is consumed in-state.

The modern product is made with a base of neutral grain spirit (aka vodka) combined with apple brandy and diluted to 80 proof. I much prefer Laird’s bottled-in-bond which is straight apple brandy at 100 proof and retains a much more intense apple flavor. Its a perfect base for a retro classic that combines the tartness of citrus and pomegranate with just enough sweetness to fully bring out all the best parts of an apple. And when shaken to an icy chill, a great thirst quencher to kick off the summer.

1 1/2 oz applejack or Laird’s Bottle-in-Bond apple brandy
1/2 oz lemon or lime juice
1/2 oz grenadine*

Shake with ice and strain. Garnish with lemon or lime wedge.

* For my grenadine I use a recipe that combines Tiare’s hibiscus grenadine with Morgenthaler’s pomegranate molasses version. Take 2 cups of pomegranate juice (fresh squeezed or bottled) and combine with 2 cups of sugar, 2 oz. pomegranate molasses, 1 tsp orange blossom water and a handful of dried hibiscus flowers. Warm ever slightly in microwave, just enough for sugar to dissolve. Let steep for an hour or two. Strain out hibiscus, bottle and store in fridge.

Reveillon Cocktail

With the weather turning modestly cooler by dipping into the low 50s at night (hey, its California after all) and the days getting longer, it has me thinking about crisp Autumn days back East in Boston, when you wake up to find a thin layer of hoarfrost on the grass, the leaves have turned a bright crimson and your breathe leaves a fog when you exhale.  Winter is coming, but in the meantime, there is much to enjoy – the Head of the Charles regatta, leaf peeping, apple picking, college football as its meant to be seen – bundled up on a cold bleacher with a flask of whiskey in your pocket to keep you warm.

It also means the Fall harvest  – cranberries, pumpkins, winter squash, celeriac, parsnips, beets, turnips, chestnuts, blackberries, crisp apples and ripe pears.  Married to roasted and braised meats, its the season of bountiful comfort food.  Sadly, this being California (I can’t believe I said that), its not quite cold enough in October to want to sit down to a long dinner of rich foods featuring plates of acorn squash, roasted chestnuts, meat pies and braised pork with apples.   But the evening cool has me almost wishing the weather cold enough to want to cook that kind of long rich meal..

Oh well, at least there is a drink that has a hint of wintry places, warm fires and hearty feasts.  And it even has the right name.

Reveillon

2 oz. Laird’s straight apple brandy
1/2 oz. pear eau de vie
1/2 oz. pimento dram
1/4 oz. Punt y Mes or Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
dash of bitters

Stir with cracked ice and strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with cinnamon stick.

Recipe courtesy of The Cocktail Chronicles.