Drinks authority David Embury called this one of his “six basic cocktails”
So who is this David Embury? And what is a “basic cocktail,” anyway?
Patience—all will be revealed in time. But first, we need to introduce this tasty delight.
The Jack Rose is made with applejack, a variety of apple brandy. Applejack goes back a long way—it was extremely popular in North America during colonial times, and was the first spirit to be licensed for commercial production in the United States.
This drink is simplicity itself to make. Pour a slug of applejack, add freshly squeezed lime juice (or lemon—your choice), splash in some grenadine (the real stuff, please), and mix with ice. The result? An appealingly tart drink with just the right balance of sweetness. Not to mention gorgeous color.
The Jack Rose is perfect for sharpening appetites before an autumn dinner. Especially that big dinner you may be planning for the 4th Thursday of November (you know, the one they call Thanksgiving).
Recipe: The Jack Rose Cocktail
Most brandies and cognacs are made from grapes. Applejack brandy is made from apples (or cider)—originally by a process called freeze distillation.
The only brand of applejack you’re likely to find in your liquor store these days is one made by Laird & Company, which is the oldest licensed distillery in the US (having obtained License No. 1 from the US Treasury Department in 1780). What you’ll probably see on the shelf is their 80-proof applejack; it includes some neutral grain spirits, which (alas) dilute the flavor somewhat. Laird also makes a bonded (100 proof) version, but it’s hard to find. You can substitute a French calvados for applejack if you like, though that’s a pricey (albeit excellent!) substitution.
Grenadine provides essential flavor in this drink. Which means you definitely need to use real (i.e., pomegranate) grenadine. The brand of grenadine you’re most likely to find in your liquor store (Rose’s) contains no pomegranate, just artificial flavors and coloring. But worry not. It’s quite easy to make your own grenadine; for complete instructions, see our post on Homemade Grenadine.
Originally, this drink was made with lemon juice. Then, somewhere along the way, lime became the citrus of choice. It’s good with either juice, though I prefer lime—so that’s what I’ve included in my version.
Most recipes for the Jack Rose are similar. I’m using the one from David Wondrich’s Imbibe!
This recipe serves 1, and takes about 5 minutes to prepare.
- 2 ounces applejack (apple brandy)
- 1 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice (or substitute fresh-squeezed lemon juice if you prefer)
- ~½ ounce grenadine (you might like a bit less or more)
- lime wedge or slice for garnish (optional; use lemon wedge/slice if you substitute lemon juice)
- Place all ingredients (except for garnish) in a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice. Shake vigorously until the shaker is frosted and the drink is thoroughly chilled (about 20 seconds).
- Strain the contents of the shaker into a cocktail glass, preferably one that’s been chilled. Garnish with a lime slice or wedge if you wish, and serve.
- A common variation on this recipe uses 1½ ounces applejack, ½ ounce juice (lime or lemon), and ½ ounce grenadine. This produces a sweeter drink than the formula I prefer, but you might find it ideal.
- How did the Jack Rose get its name? As usual with cocktails, there are competing theories. One says it’s named after the Jacquemot (Jacque) rose, which has a color similar to this drink.
- A more exciting story says it was named after Bald Jack Rose, a notorious early 20th century gambler and gangland figure. He became famous for (among other things) serving as a star witness at a lurid underworld murder trial.
- In truth, the origins of this drink are likely more prosaic. David Wondrich says it probably was invented by a bartender named Frank J. May—who also went by the pseudonym Jack Rose.
- Rose (or May) tended bar in New Jersey, so that’s where he probably developed this drink. Coincidentally, Laird & Company was founded in New Jersey. And a slang term for applejack is “Jersey Lightning.”
- David Embury (1886-1960) was an American attorney who became a well-known cocktail authority. He wrote The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, a comprehensive, authoritative (and witty) guide to mixology. Embury was quite opinionated, and he preferred his drinks dry (i.e., not sweet)—drier, in fact, than many people can tolerate.
- Want an example? Well, our recipe for the Jack Rose has a ratio of 4:2:1 (4 parts applejack to 2 parts lime juice to 1 part grenadine). The alternate formula that I give in the first note above is 3:1:1. Embury’s preference is 8:2:1. Now that’s a dry drink!
- In his book, Embury includes a chapter titled “Six Basic Cocktails.” These are the drinks that Embury declared to be the best known and most popular—so they were the ones that readers were advised to learn first. The Jack Rose was among them. You can read about the other five in some of our prior posts: the Martini, the Manhattan, the Old-Fashioned, the Classic Daiquiri, and the Sidecar.
- Embury’s list is still a good guide to essential cocktails. The Jack Rose is the only one that sounds obscure today—and we’re doing our best to change that.
- The Jack Rose seems to have reached peak popularity during the first half of the 20th century (Embury’s heyday). Ernest Hemingway has Jake Barnes down one (or maybe two) in The Sun Also Rises (published 1926).
A Rose is a Rose is a Rose
“Love the color of this,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs, hoisting her glass. “The flavor too.”
“So I noticed,” I said, observing her happy sipping.
She ignored my Embury-inspired dryness. “The lime and grenadine play nicely together.”
“Think we should try this with lemon next?” I asked as she drained her glass.
“But of course!” said Mrs K R. “We’re known for the depth of our cocktail research.”
“Thanks for putting it that way,” I said, mixing us another round.
“Mmmm,” said Mrs K R as she sipped. “Lemon is nice in this too.”
“Though the lime is somewhat better,” I said between tastes.
“Agreed. But I’d be happy to drink either.”
That’s Mrs K R—always ready to make the best of any situation.
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Homemade Grenadine Whiskey Sour
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Love this. I'm a bigger fan of Calvados than applejack. Might just have to try this with that one. I'm with you on the lime vs. lemon. :)
I love this...first I love Applejack. Then I'm a lime girl all the way. Last but not least? Homemade Grenadine? Absolutely (and so easy too!).
John: Wow!!!!!!!!!!!!! You have the best cocktail pictures. They are very professional!
Wow, these sound heavenly and perfect for a celebration. Beautiful clicks.. looks very professional :)
Hi John , i will love this cocktail with the lime , I love Applejack and just in time for the hollidays , thanks for sharing :)
Hi Pamela, Calvados is wonderful! And using it makes a good drink extraordinary. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Barb, doesn't applejack have such great flavor? I love it. And I'm so with you on the lime. And grenadine is so easy - and inexpensive - to make at home (and so good!) it seems criminal to buy it. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Denise, thanks so much for those kind words, and for taking time to comment.
Hi Sowmya, isn't this nice? Truly a good drink. Thanks for the kind words, and comment.
Hi Nee, glad to find another applejack lover! And this cocktail really is perfect for the holidays! Thanks for the comment.
I can't say that I've had applejack before but the 4th Thursday of November is a big day this year. It is the first day of Hanukkah, which like has never happened in my life time on Thanksgiving, and apparently won't for another 70,000 years, AND it is our 32nd wedding anniversary, and my kids will be home! I'm ready to dig in the liquor cabinet, like now! Great sounding drink!
I am blown away by your knowledge of liquor and cocktails, John… and this one sounds terrific!! Thank you for sharing.
I just pinned your grenadine recipe. I am on a pomegranate binge since they are in season.
No one can photograph a cocktail like you. I am thirsty just looking at it. I can't wait to give this one a try. I love all the components.
Haha, love that Mrs. KR, my kind of gal! This has to be the prettiest drink I've ever seen, that color is just stunning!
I simply love your name for this cocktail - it is so gorgeous :D
Hi Abbe, I had read that Hanukkah is the same day as Thanksgiving this year! So unusual. With those two holidays, your kids home, AND your wedding anniversary? Mucho celebration time! This drink would be nice, but maybe a champagne cocktail would be better? ;-) Thanks for your comment.
Hi Lizzy, I'm not actually sure if that knowledge is a good thing or bad thing, but I work with what I've got. ;-) This really is a good cocktail - tons of flavor. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Madonna, pomegranates are about as cheap as I ever see them right now! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Karen, you'll like this drink - extremely good. Thanks for the kind words, and for taking time to comment.
Hi Chris, Mrs KR is my kind f gal, too! ;-) This really is a pretty drink, isn't it? I love it! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Uru, this really is a gorgeous drink, isn't it? Gorgeous flavor, too. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
I love this drink. It sounds like it would really tasty and I love the color. Your pictures are beautiful, my favorite is the one with the drink and the bottle.
I haven't thought of Apple Jack since my Great Aunt Leena died. She always had a bottle within reach, but I never actually saw her drink it. I know she did though because the levels kept changing. I was always curious what it tasted like and finally got to taste it when my dad bought a bottle for her funeral. She lived 98 years, so it certainly didn't hurt her. :) Looks like I need to make this Jack Rose Cocktail in her memory. What a beautiful drink! Thanks for the memories John!
Hi Dawn, isn't the color on this great? I love it! Thanks for the kind words, and comment.
Hi MJ, maybe we should all drink more applejack so we can live to 98! ;-) This is a nice drink - definitely worth trying. Thanks for the comment.
An interesting insight that was! Love the pics and the cocktail sounds fabulous and just as you said definitely worth trying. :-)
It's always fun to learn about cocktails here (and I can't drink much - how ironic!). This is such a pretty drink! I introduced your blog to a couple of my friends who enjoy making cocktails at home (they love having home parties). I met one of them the other day and she told me she's been testing your recipes! :D I think I now have a personal bartender who makes your drinks. Very smart move, I thought!!! ;)
Hi EFS, isn't this a great cocktail? And an interesting history. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Nami, it's pretty clever getting your own personal bartender! Hope they enjoy the drinks! Thanks for the comment.
This is so pretty that it doesn't worry me too much that I can't eat apples. Your posts are always so informative.
I've never had a Jack Rose nor have I ever seen one. I'm so eager to try this.
Grenadine takes me back to my early childhood when they gave us kids glasses of cold syrup with water instead of soft drinks. To this day I haven't used it again! I must try to find the real thing, though I don't know how that will go. Anyway, the color is amazing ! This is a perfect party drink, it has all the right attributes: easy to make and gorgeous.
That cocktail is fabulous - both in color and flavor.
Hi Suzanne, isn't this a nice color? And it has a lovely flavor! thanks for the comment.
Hi Maureen, it's not a drink that's very popular any more, alas. Should be - it' a good one. Thanks for the comment.
Wonderful libation, here! Thank you for sharing!
Hi Paula, finding real grenadine can be a bit of a challenge. But it takes only a few minutes to make it yourself if you use bottled pomegranate juice. And you're right that this would make a great party drink! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Rosa, isn't this a nice cocktail? Perfect for a nice relaxing weekend drink! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Dan, it really is a great drink! Thanks for the comment.
Wowie, your cocktail pictures are just stunning.
This looks so festive and fun.
brilliantly red hued cocktail...just the thing needed to celebrate autumn...looks gorgeous :-)
Hi Asha, it really is a fun drink! Thanks for your kind words, and for taking time to comment.
Hi Kumar, isn't the color nice? And the flavor is even better! Thanks for the comment.
I love apple brandy - I always have a bottle of calvados around. Lime and grenadine sound like great additions.
What a pretty colour this is. I think one of these as a kick-off to Thanksgiving celebrations would be a must. Would like to experience a traditional Thanksgiving at least once in my life! xx
Realmente una delicia de cóctel me gustaría probar me encantó,abrazos.
Such pretty cocktail! I've got to search for apple brandy :D
The Jack Rose brings back fond memories of my Aunt Nancy who lived in Brooklyn. Each and every night she would begin her evening with a Jack Rose Cocktail. I remember how pretty I thought it was but I was too young to ever have a sip. (I was "allowed: to have wine though:) When I got older, I indulged myself with a Jack Rose in her honor.
It's been way to long since I've enjoyed another. Aunt Nancy had "rules" when it came to The Jack Rose, must use Laird's, always lime:)
Thank you so much for sharing, John...
Hi Laura, if you have Calvados on hand, you really should give this a try - wonderful cocktail. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Charlie, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year! I do hope you get to enjoy one someday. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Rosita, isn't this so nice? Just a great drink! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Kiran, it's definitely worth searching for! Such good stuff. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Louise, your Aunt Nancy sounds like a wise woman. ;-) You do indeed need to have another of these. With lime, of course! Thanks for the comment.
Definitely gorgeous! And I happen to have some apple brandy ready and waiting :)
Beautiful drink. I do like Brandy in food, although I haven't had it straight up. I may have to give this a try. I do have some on the shelf, maybe I'll make some and surprise my hubby with it. He'd definitely be shocked that I put it together.
I have never heard of apple jack (outside of the cereal, of course) and now I'm super intrigued. You know how much I love all things apple! Thank you for sharing this. Looks just gorgeous!
Hi Liz, if you have apple brandy on hand, there's no excuse not to give this a try! ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi VIcki, I use regular brandy (Cognac) in cooking all the time, but rarely applejack. I'll have to try that! And I'm sure hubby will enjoy this! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Monet, with your love of apples, this drink is definitely for you! Thanks for the comment.
I always like the history bit of your cocktail posts. I may never be able to drink them but I can definitely tell someone the history! I love the colour of this, so gorgeous!
Sounds like a very elegant drink with a refined apple aroma.
Love your purist presentation, so beautiful!
Hi Nazneen, long before I started drinking cocktails, I enjoyed reading about their history in a weekly drinks column in the Wall Street Journal. It's actually their history that got me interested in trying them. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Daniela, it's really a fun drink - hope you have the opportunity to try it sometime. Thanks for the comment.
one of “six basic cocktails” and I haven't had one yet? What in the heck is wrong with me? Yikes. GREG
Hi Greg, I'm surprised this one has slipped past you! Definitely worth trying - you'll enjoy it. Thanks for the comment.
Wow.. when I first saw the name I immediately thought of Titanic. Love Gredannine.
Hi Honey, I hadn't thought of the Titanic but it sure fits! Thanks for the comment.
I actually have apple jack at my house!! I used it for cooking once and also put it in apple cider once - to die for!!!
Hi Ashley, sounds as if you're all set to make this! Just make (or buy) grenadine, and you're good to go! Thanks for the comment.
With its lovely apple notes, I bet this would be the ideal aperitif before indulging in a big holiday ham at the table. ;)
Hi Carolyn, good call! This would be perfect with ham. :-) Thanks for the comment.
The beautiful pink blush. The sour bite. The warming lemon. Yes please.
Beautiful! I love Applejack. This sounds delightful - perfect for this time of year. Thanks!
If I bring appetizers, can I come to your house for drinks?
Hi Cquek, it's such a great drink! Totally delish. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Adri, it's so, so nice. I love the color of it! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Kristi, absolutely! We always have the makings for a few drinks on hand. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Such a pretty color. I did not know about Applejack before...now I know! Knowledge is power :) We are planning to stop by the liquor store this afternoon (you know, usual Saturday errands!), so I will look for this to see if they sell.
Hi Ilke, isn't the color nice? The flavor is even better! Have fun shopping at the liquor store. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
MMM I love the addition of lime juice in this cocktail - it sounds like pure bliss!
I love your cocktails! The festive color of this drink would make it perfect for the holidays. I love a little bit of tartness in my cocktails. Another must-try drink from you. Thanks John!
Hi Kristi, doesn't lime have a wonderful flavor? And so nice in this drink! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Gomo, I'm with you on tartness - it works so well in cocktails. Thanks for the comment.
That's a sweet looking cocktail! I've just made your braised beef with sweet potatoes yesterday and it was wonderful, definitely a keeper!
Hi Gintare, isn't this a pretty drink? And it tastes even better than it looks. Glad you enjoyed the braised beef with sweet potatoes. Such a nice dish, isn't it? Thanks for letting me know you liked it, and for commenting.
Oh gorgeous cocktail, John! Perfectly crisp and tart for these fall days! I'm definitely checking out your recipe for home made grenadine, too! Thanks for sharing another perfect cocktail! :
Hi Anne, isn't this pretty? And it's such a natural for autumn. Thanks for the comment.
well actually i'm not used with cocktail or liquor for dringking but only cooking.....
this shoots sounds a refreshing, the color is beautifull too!
Hi Dedy, applejack has pretty good flavor and although I usually use Calvados in cooking, I bet it would work fine too. Thanks for the comment.
First, you know I love learning about booze....ummm, I mean cocktails! AND second, you know I enjoy brandy. So now that you have introduced me to apple brandy, well I must buy some soon! This cocktail has beautiful Fall flavors combined, and would be gorgeous with Thanksgiving dinner:-) Take care, Terra
Hi Terra, this is really a good one! You'll enjoy. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
This is interesting- we made a chicken dish at the Cordon Bleu School in Paris using Calvados - an apple brandy from Normandy, France. I love anything with apples in it, so I took a swig directly from the bottle- UGH! Tasted alright in the chicken dish, though!
Hi Fran, a lot of Calvados can taste a bit astringent - it's the rawness of the alcohol. Cooking certainly masks that because the alcohol evaporates. And in cocktails, other flavors enhance the apple notes, and mask the rawness of the alcohol. Thanks for the comment.
Hi John, great posting. Always enjoy read your posting, you provide lots of useful info and notes.
This cocktail sure look refreshing. Very impressive photography skill.
Have a great week ahead.
Hi Amelia, it's a great cocktail - such a nice flavor. Thanks for the kind words, and comment.
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