I know fall has become pumpkin spice time for many people. I am not one of them. Growing up in Florida fall was just extended summer. I never understood the whole change of leaves, harvest celebration that takes place throughout most of the country. My first jobs were in New England where I spent 28 years. In that time, I did come to embrace the fall harvest culture. Every October I looked forward to apple picking trips. Which is why apples will always be the thing I overdose on in the autumn.
On one of my farm trips I walked into the barn to pay and found people sipping something. As I approached I was asked if I wanted some applejack. Never shy to try something new I was handed a small amount. It was very alcoholic with a tart scent of apples. My host explained it was apple brandy. As I took a sip I was enthralled by the way the apples made it all palatable and smooth. The farm wasn’t licensed to sell it, but I knew I wanted more because I felt it was going to be a great cocktail ingredient. Turns out the story behind commercial applejack is a great historical tale.
The most prominent commercial seller of applejack is Laird and Company. They began when Alexander Laird settled in New Jersey in 1698. He was a distiller and the material he had to work with was apples. Over time he would go from supplying family and friends to stocking the local Inn which was a stagecoach stop. By the time of the Revolutionary War George Washington requested the recipe. In response the Laird family supplied the troops with applejack. Once the war was over Robert Laird received Federal Liquor License #1. Lisa Laird is the ninth generation of the family to be part of the applejack business as Vice President of the company.
Applejack is a fall substitute for the whisky in cocktails like a Manhattan or Old Fashioned. It gives an apple kick to both of those. I am a big fan of the classics and there is a classic cocktail which I regularly make with applejack; The Pink Lady.
The Pink Lady is one of those drinks derided in the movies of the as a “lady’s drink”. The name is descriptive but if you think a “lady’s drink” has less of a punch The Pink Lady will knock you out. The better the ingredients you use the more impressive the simple mixture becomes. The recipe is three parts gin to one part applejack plus half part lemon juice and half part grenadine plus one egg white. Combine all the ingredients in a shaker minus the ice and shake. Add ice after the egg white has been absorbed shake some more and then strain into a glass.
I like using a strong herbal gin, like my local Green Hat, and I make the effort to make fresh grenadine. I’ve seen many a house guest smirk when I say I’m serving them a Pink Lady only to ask for seconds. It is a fantastic autumn Happy Hour choice.
While everyone else is drinking their pumpkin spice whatever I’m happy to stand to the side sipping my Pink Lady.