Applejack Rabbit

Jimmy Carter Rabbit Incident

Your cocktail calendar entry for: April
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We’re mixing the Applejack Rabbit cocktail today for the anniversary of the Jimmy Carter rabbit incident, or the “killer rabbit attack.”  Today it’s an all but forgotten bit of presidential peril, but at the time it made the front page of The Washington Post with the title “Bunny Goes Bugs: Rabbit attacks President.”  But it wasn’t just a bunny.  It was a swamp rabbit, something your faithful correspondent never heard of before looking for appropriate events to drink to.  That’s obviously cause for a drink.  The Applejack Rabbit recipe is simple and fits the bill so it’s Drink of the Day.

Swamp Rabbits and The Carter Rabbit Incident

The swamp rabbit is not exactly like the pet bunny someone in your neighborhood keeps.  The pet is a domesticated version of the European rabbit.  The swamp rabbit is a big cottontail found in swamps and wetlands of the southern US.  Yes, it’s a rabbit that swims, likes to go out and eat at night, and weighs in at about five pounds.  A formidable beast, indeed.

As it turns out, on April 20, 1979, then-President Carter was sitting alone fishing from a flat-bottomed boat near Plains, Georgia.  Staff were on shore nearby.  As Carter later recounted, a rabbit being chased by hounds “jumped in the water and swam toward my boat.  When he got almost there I splashed some water with a paddle.”

Nobody believed him when Carter returned to his office, saying that rabbits could not swim.  But a White House photographer had taken a picture of the incident which was later released by the Reagan administration.

Jody Powell, Carter’s Press Secretary, made mention of the incident one day and later recounted in a book that:

“The President confessed to having had limited experience with enraged rabbits.  He was unable to reach a definite conclusion about its state of mind.  What was obvious, however, was that this large, wet animal, making strange hissing noises and gnashing its teeth, was intent upon climbing into the Presidential boat.”

Before the book the incident caught the attention of AP correspondent Brooks Jackson, who wrote the above-mentioned newspaper story.  Carter’s opponents jumped on it, labeling Carter’s presidency hapless and feeble.  This happened close to the release of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, with its scene of the killer rabbit dispatching Knights of the Round Table.  So Carter’s allies claimed he fended off a killer rabbit.  Politics as usual.

Applejack Rabbit

To honor the clearly formidable swamp rabbit we’ve named the Applejack Rabbit as Drink of the Day.  It’s something of a classic, with recipes in Harry Craddock’s The Savoy Cocktail Book and later in David Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks.

We honored Mr. Embury, a tax attorney who turned to cocktails, when we mixed the Sidecar for his birthday.  Mr. Craddock is well known in these pages for his seminal book and first publishing such important recipes as the Corpse Reviver No. 2.

Mr. Embury also explains that “this drink is also sometimes, for no reason at all, called the Applejack Dynamite.  The same cocktail made with a gin base plus a dash of Angostura is called the Old Vermont.”   We’re obviously going with the rabbit name, but admit that a stick of dynamite may have been handy for the former President.

As you can see the Applejack Rabbit recipe falls into the basic sours family (spirit, citrus, sweetener).  Nonetheless it gains complexity through the use of two juices and maple syrup rather than simple syrup.

applejack rabbit

Applejack Rabbit

The Applejack Rabbit is apple brandy based drink from the sours family (spirit, citrus, sweetener) and is an early 20th century recipe. It's one that it really works - the combination of citrus juices and apple brandy, with added complexity from a small amount of maple syrup creates a delicious cocktail.
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  • 2 oz Laird’s Apple Brandy
  • ¾ oz fresh orange juice
  • ¾ oz Fresh lemon juice
  • ½ oz Maple syrup


  • Add all ingredients to your trusty shaker.
  • Add ice and shake until frosty cold.
  • Strain into pre-chilled coupe
  • Drink.
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