Sunday, March 2, 2008
Two Applejacks a Day
I used to make Jack Rose cocktails with a flask of plain old Laird's Applejack, and I liked them OK. Then I got my copy of David Wondrich's "Imbibe!" in which he basically insisted that if I couldn't locate Laird's pure bonded version of Applejack, I shouldn't bother with the company's products at all, and instead opt for a VS-grad Calvados from France.
Well, that made me wonder whether the Jack Roses I'd been making were worthy of the cocktail's name. I take a Wondrich recommendation seriously. So I laid off Applejack cocktails until I found the bonded stuff. Lo and behold, I did find it the other night, at (typically) LeNell's liquor emporium in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Thus armed, I went home and conducted a side-by-side test. Was there really a difference between a Jack Rose made with regular Laird's and one made with the bonded juice?
Was there ever and how!
I got my ducks in a row and made the cocktails one after another, so I could taste them both while they were fresh and cold. The first Jack Rose was fine, an eminently enjoyable drink. (I used the recipe from David's book: 2 oz. of applejack, juice of 1/2 lime, 1/2 oz. of Grenadine, shaken.) But the second! The pleasure of the first was all on the surface. The second, with the bonded, suddenly had depth. I could taste the drink all the way to the bottom of the glass. It was as if a flat picture had suddenly coming to three-dimensional life. I will never order a Jack Rose again in a bar without first inquiring whether they have bonded Laird's behind the bar. (Great: I'm a bigger snob than ever.)
The experiment made me so excited, I went ahead and tried the other great Applejack cocktail, The Star Cocktail, with the bonded. The Star, according to Wondrich, is made with a few dashes of Angostura, 1 1/2 oz. of Applejack and 1 1/2 oz. of Italian vermouth. The result was fine, but a bit simplistic in my estimation. I tasted Applejack. I tasted vermouth. They didn't combine in a particularly compelling way. It left me with the opinion that the Jack Rose remains the king of the apple brandy cocktails.