Joe Montana might wear those stupid “exercise” shoes these days, but we all know that’s just for the cash. Back in the day, he was one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all time, rivaling Dan Marino and John Elway for a spot on the bedroom wall of boys around the country during the late 1980s and appearing on SNL in Sincere Guy Stu. Pertinent to our discussion of cocktails, however, he is also a discriminating tippler, known to favor the subject of this week’s post… the Jack Rose. Rachael Maddow is also a fan, apparently, but there’s no way I’m going to focus on her over the man who threw The Catch.
A variation on the Sour, the Jack Rose is great classic cocktail with a sour/sweet/apple balance that is accessible to those who find some other cocktails,e.g. a dry martini, too booze-forward. Also, it uses, and is a great excuse to get a bottle of, one of the best-named traditional spirits: applejack, a/k/a “Jersey Lightning.” An apple brandy that is a bit of a cross between Calvados and bourbon, applejack was first distilled by settlers in the New World, and so is literally “more American than apple pie.” In fact, much early apple production went to making applejack and hard cider, rather than for eating. Applejack has been made continuously in the Garden State since the Eighteenth century by Laird’s, and, if you can find it, get a bottle of their higher proof “bonded” stuff, which is more traditional and makes better, stronger drinks because it is not blended with neutral spirits.
Once you’ve gotten some applejack, make a proper Jack Rose cocktail:
1 ½ oz. Apple Jack
½ oz. fresh lemon juice (usually the juice of one half of a lemon)
½ oz. simple syrup
Dash of grenadine
Combine all ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker; shake; strain into chilled cocktail glass; garnish with a bit of lemon peel (use a vegetable peeler to make a strip of peel).
A quick word on two of the ingredients. First, simple syrup is aptly named; simply mix two parts sugar with one part water in a small saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves, funnel into an empty bottle, and keep in the fridge for a month. Second, grenadine is named for pomegranates, but all the readily-available brands use high fructose corn syrup and red dye. The real stuff can be found or can be made easily at home. Don’t stress out over it for this drink, get what you can as it’s just for a bit of color. If you do get your hands on the real stuff, however, swap out the simple syrup for ½ oz. of real grenadine (¾ oz. if using home-made).
While it can’t prevent you from being traded to the Chiefs, the Jack Rose is certainly worth making, and, once you’ve gotten yourself a bottle of applejack, you can also experiment with a highly-recommended applejack old-fashioned.