This year we’re going to mix up the Apple Jack cocktail for Thanksgiving, a holiday particularly suited for drinking. Let’s face it, whether you’re steeling yourself for a feast of epic proportions or require help to make it through a meal with a weird uncle, a good Thanksgiving drink will help.
What to drink on Thanksgiving?
Here at The Drunkard’s Almanac we’ve given prior consideration to the Thanksgiving holiday, so the Apple Jack cocktail is hardly the only appropriate choice.
If you’re feeling historical you might consider the American Trilogy and can read about the history of the holiday there. Not to mention the fact that the American Trilogy combines two of the earliest American spirits: apple brandy and rye whiskey.
Then again, if you feel like reviving some 1970s slang there’s always the Jive Turkey cocktail. A bit prickly for many home bars in terms of the ingredient list, it’s nonetheless a drink from the renowned Death & Co. bar in New York. That alone gives it street cred.
Nonetheless, choosing a Drink of the Day for Thanksgiving isn’t a walk in the park. We gave real thought to the Turkey Legs, a drink that Robert Simonson describes in the New York Times as “Bob Hope’s Christmas in Hawaii” in a glass. We just weren’t quite ready for a tiki drink that might make you run out for St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram in November
This year we’re doubling down on the apple side of the equation and going with the Apple Jack. After all, back in colonial times water was often unsafe to drink and always suspect. Because the ingredients for beer wouldn’t grow well in New England they planted orchards to make hard cider. And they lived well: men typically began the day with a quart of hard cider at breakfast. Johnny Appleseed wasn’t into the “apple a day” stuff, he was out to make cider.
Apple Jack Cocktail
The Apple Jack is really a member of the sours family (spirit, citrus, sweetener) but includes some apple juice to round out the flavors.
The Apple Jack recipe we present is actually a derivative of the Apple Jack Rabbit cocktail that appears in Harry Craddock’s The Savoy Cocktail Book. Mr. Craddock may have been fond of rabbits, as he also lists an Apple Jack and the Apple Jack (Special). What these drinks have in common is their use of an apple brandy as the base spirit.
The Apple Jack cocktail here was developed by the late Sasha Petraske at his legendary New York bar Milk & Honey. We noted his accomplishments in conjunction with the Gold Rush cocktail, which itself has become a modern classic. His Apple Jack cocktail differs from Mr. Craddock’s Apple Jack Rabbit by replacing orange juice with apple juice and tweaking the ingredient proportions.
For this drink we specifically advise using Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy Bottled in Bond. Sure, there’s Applejack (American apple brandy) from a variety of sources and even more Calvados (French apple brandy), but those are generally bottled at 80 proof. Bottled in Bond means 100 proof and this helps it stand up to assorted ingredients. It’s generally the preferred apple brandy for use in cocktails. And besides, the family-owned Laird & Company dates back to Colonial times and is the oldest distillery in the U.S.
Apple Jack Cocktail
- 1½ oz Laird’s Apple Brandy or Applejack
- ½ oz Apple juice
- ½ oz Fresh lemon juice
- ¼ oz Simple syrup This calls for a rich simple syrup, made from sugar and water in a 2:1 proportion. If you don't have it that concentrated simply use a bit more.
- Add all ingredients to your trusty shaker.
- Add ice and shake until frosty cold.
- Strain into pre-chilled coupe. No garnish.
- Rinse and repeat.