If you’ve studied American history (or recently seen Hamilton), you know the basics of the American Revolution – America vs. England; long, hard battle; France provided aid; America won independence. But a lesser known fact is that George Washington helped boost morale among his troops by providing them with alcohol. He believed, “there should always be a sufficient quantity of spirits with the army…it is so essential that it is not to be dispensed with.” Washington was particularly fond of a pure spirit beverage made from a blend of apple brandy and neutral grain spirits called applejack, produced by the Laird family.
Laird & Company is the oldest distillery in the country – the nation’s first licensed distillery! Its origins lie with William Laird, a Scotsman who first settled in New Jersey in 1698 and started producing applejack for his friends and family. His son Robert Laird, proprietor of the Colts Neck Inn, began commercial distillation of applejack in 1780. Prohibition halted applejack production, but apple products such as applesauce and sweet cider kept the company alive. Alcohol production resumed when Laird & Company was granted a license to produce apple brandy for medicinal purposes. Today, the Laird family is going on its 10th generation of owner-operators.
Laird’s Applejack is gaining popularity because modern consumers find boutique brands and small batch production more appealing than mass market offerings. Big bourbon brands are trying to compete, but with it’s quality and history, Laird & Company has the edge.
As an apple-based spirit, autumn is the perfect time to feature an applejack cocktail on your menu, especially since brown liquor is more popular as temperatures drop. The Hot Apple Toddy is one of my personal favorites (it was even featured at my wedding). A Jack Rose is a classic and mentioned by Hemingway in The Sun Also Rises, or for a more modern take, the Golden Delicious is a simple, but tasty choice (also served at my wedding). Whichever you choose, customers will love to hear about how they’re drinking a piece of American history.
Hot Apple Toddy
2 oz Applejack
½ oz Apple Juice
¼ oz Demerara Syrup (2:1)
3 ½ oz Boiling Water
Build in toddy glass. Stir to integrate. Garnish with ½ a baked apple and nutmeg.
2 oz Applejack
¾ oz Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
½ oz Pomegranate Grenadine
Shake, strain and serve up. Garnish with an apple slice
Golden Delicious (created by Chad Solomon and Christy Pope)
1 oz Applejack
½ oz Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
½ oz Honey Syrup (2:1)
2 oz Prosecco
Shake and strain. Serve up in a coupe. Top with Prosecco. Garnish with a pansy.