Jack Rose Cocktail

July 2nd, 2008  |  Published in brandy, housemade, mixers, recipes  |  9 Comments


It has been one of those weeks—work snuck up and gave me the stress-and-deadlines equivalent of a sound beating with a blunt object, so needless to say I have been a little lax about typing up a post. I really need to replenish my selection of drafts, but I always think about these things when I’m too busy to do them and then promptly forget when I become un-busy. It’s a vicious cycle, I tell you.

Anyway, I’m here now, and I bring you a classic first introduced to me by the one and only Ted Haigh, aka Doctor Cocktail. I had seen this in the pages of Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails but only tried it after Ted explained its construction to a (very patient and cooperative) bartender while we were terrorizing the bars downtown. Said bartender was already wearing one of our party’s Negronis from a tragic shaker malfunction earlier in the evening, so I imagine the Jack Rose was a welcome respite from our wardrobe-destroying Campari fixation.

One of David Embury’s six essential cocktails from The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, the Jack Rose was popular during the Prohibition years and was mentioned by name in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, which also contains the first printed reference to “The Lost Generation,” Gertrude Stein’s phrase for writers like Hemingway and Fitzgerald who so embodied the pathos of the generation coping between the wars. Which is neither here nor there, as the Jack Rose has its own eclectic history:

The simplest explanation of the name is the fact that it is made with applejack and is rose colored from the grenadine. Also, it is possibly named after, or even invented by, the infamous hitman Jack Rose. Albert Stevens Crockett (Old Waldorf Bar Days, 1931) states that it is named after the pink Jacquemot (also known as Jacqueminot or Jacque) rose. It has also been posited that the Jack Rose was invented by Joseph P. Rose, a Newark, NJ restaurateur, and named by him “in honor” of a defendant in a trial then being held at the courthouse in that city. (Joseph P. Rose once held the title of “World’s Champion Mixologist.”) – from Wikipedia

I’m inclined to think that the name is derived from applejack and the rose hue of the drink, but it entertains me to think it refers to a hitman, the drink’s creator issuing a sly warning about his concoction’s potency. You say tomato, I say psycho killer, qu’est-ce que c’est…

1½ oz applejack
½ oz fresh lemon juice
½ oz grenadine

Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon or lime wedge and serve.

So, as I was saying about the potency of this drink, here’s a word to the wise: if all you have in the house is Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy, you may want to consider tinkering with the proportions a bit. Granted, it tastes really good—tart and sweet apple flavors combined with the acid from the lemon and a little oomph from some rich homemade grenadine (which, not being artificially colored, does not impart the same rosy hue as a commercial version). However, at 100º it will put a hurt on you. Sort of like a contract for your life issued to Jack Rose. In a metaphorical sense, anyway.

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  1. gilrain says:

    July 2nd, 2008at 1:59 pm(#)

    Is the somewhat sharper quality of applejack necessary, here, or would a Calvados work? I tend to only keep Calvados in stock, as I can’t seem to find a good applejack.

  2. Marleigh says:

    July 2nd, 2008at 3:12 pm(#)

    True applejack is produced by distilling apple cider into liquor—basically really hard cider. These days, even though Laird’s is labeled applejack it is an apple brandy. Calvados is a generally accepted sub for applejack, so I don’t see how it could hurt to sub it here.

  3. Smoove D says:

    July 2nd, 2008at 5:45 pm(#)

    I don’t think applejack is meant to be good – based on its origins as cheap hooch for the colonists. Anyway, I’m not sure how well Calvados would work in this drink as the grenadine and lemon can be overwhelming, while applejack has a harsher flavor that stands up to them. Plus it’s a waste of perfectly good Calvados.

  4. gilrain says:

    July 2nd, 2008at 6:31 pm(#)

    A waste, hm? I doubt that! I rarely drink my Calvados neat, sacrilegious as that may seem. I am a cocktail man through and through. I stock my Calvados for the cocktails that require it — especially the Fallen Leaves cocktail, which is amazing.

  5. Chris says:

    July 2nd, 2008at 11:56 pm(#)

    So Laird’s Applejack is actually only partially (30% I think?) apple Brandy, cut with grain neutral spirits (hence the harshness of it straight). Whereas their Bonded Apple Brandy is all distilled hard cider. They also make a Calvados-esque “7 1/2 year” Apple Brandy which is really nice.

    I did a post not so long ago on a Jack Rose variant with the Bonded A.B. & a homemade Hibiscus Grenadine…


  6. Dr. Bamboo says:

    July 3rd, 2008at 4:35 am(#)

    I love this drink! It was one of the first recipes I made after picking up VS&FC (Probably because applejack was one of the few “exotic” ingredients that was readily available in the local liquor stores).

    And am I the only one who has had several people expect applejack to taste like Pucker Green Apple Schnapps despite me warning them it’s really more similar to whiskey?

  7. Marleigh says:

    July 3rd, 2008at 4:50 am(#)


    I expect everything to taste like Apple Pucker.

  8. selling out and the carlos slim « liquor is quicker says:

    November 11th, 2009at 7:34 pm(#)

    [...] go fine in any tequila-based drink you like.  Recently, I tried it in a tequila-variation on a Jack Rose, made to test out my new, homemade grenadine (using the hot process method).  The cocktail turned [...]

  9. Eric says:

    October 18th, 2010at 7:10 pm(#)

    I finally got to try a Jack Rose last week for the first time and was quite pleased. The lemon and grenadine (commercial, in this case) was just enough to enhance the apple flavor. The bartender also opted for an apple slice to garnish, which was a nice seasonal touch for the fall.

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