Jack Rose

Overview

The Jack Rose is a classic fruit-forward sour with Apple brandy and grenadine. In the early 20th century it was everywhere. Ernest Hemingway referenced it in his 1926 novel “The Sun Also Rises” and David Embury tabbed it as one of his 6 essential cocktails in “The Art of Mixing Drinks”.

 

But today, while respected by the cocktail community, it hasn’t been embraced the way other resurgent classics like the Last Word or Sazerac have.  This is likely because of the presence of grenadine which, of course, is best known for being a Shirely Temple-izer of ginger ale/7 Up.  And indeed, if you use the mass market stuff your Jack Rose will taste like a Jolly Rancher. But if properly balanced with quality grenadine, this drink absolutely deserves a seat at the grownup cocktail table. 

 

There are several "craft" grenadines available, which I imagine are all more or less solid.  But I've always made it from scratch, which is very easy to do - details below.  Another helpful Jack Rose trick is to split the citrus portion between lemon and lime - explantation below.  As for Apple Brandy, Laird’s 100 proof remains my #1 choice, always and forever.

Recipe

 

  • 2 oz apple brandy (preferably Laird's 100 proof)

  • scant ½ oz lemon juice

  • scant ½ oz lime juice

  • ¾ oz grenadine

 

Combine all ingredients in a shaker and fill with ice.  Shake for about 8 seconds and strain into a chilled coupe or martini glass. 

If you make a Jack Rose,

let me see!  Please tag a photo @socialhourcocktails on Instagram.

Grenadine

Grenadine is pomegranate syrup.  I was surprised when I first learned this. My whole life I assumed it was some form of cherry flavor. But can you blame me?  Most grenadine tastes like cough syrup.  That's why you should avoid the mass market generic stuff at all costs.  

 

But while it has a reputation for kid’s drinks and cocktails that are better off forgotten - sorry, Tequila Sunrise, real grenadine is a legit classic cocktail ingredient.  In addition to the Jack Rose, it appears in the Singapore Sling, Zombie, Ward Eight, Pink Lady, Planter’s Punch, and Scofflaw.

 

Proper grenadine should be somewhat tart and have a touch of earthiness along with the typical bright fruit notes.  This simple recipe accomplishes both.

  • 1 cup pomegranate juice - POM Wonderful is perfectly fine

  • ¾ cup sugar - 1 cup sugar if not using molasses

  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses - optional

  • 3 orange peels

 

Combine the pomegranate juice, molasses and sugar over medium heat (or heat in the microwave) and stir until sugar is dissolved.  Express the oils from the orange peels into the syrup.  Discard the peels and stir.

Jack Rose Master 2.jpg

Commentary

 

Lemon vs. Lime Debate 

As mentioned in the origin story below, it isn’t crystal clear whether lemon or lime is the official citrus juice to be used in a Jack Rose.  Lime is probably more common, though many credible bartenders today opt for lemon.  I like to straddle the fence and use a combination of both - which I’m not alone in doing.  Not only does it alleviate the pressure of having to pick a side, I genuinely think it makes for the best cocktail.  Lemon alone is a little soft and I think reads sweet, while lime comes off a bit sharp and candied when paired with the grenadine. A combo of the two threads the needle. But that all being said, if you only have straight lemon or lime, either will get the job done as well.

 

Bitters

Some prefer a dash of Angostura bitters in a Jack Rose, which adds a clove-y note on the back end and a drier finish - though it pulls some focus from the core flavors.   I like it both ways.

 

Citrus Peel Garnish

You can also play around with garnishing this with a citrus peel.  Orange and lemon are the most obvious choices.  They definitely brighten the drink up, but if you hit it too hard with the oils it can become a little candied.  I recommend holding the peel a few inches above the glass.  If you’re really looking to shake things up, try a grapefruit peel.  It makes for an entirely different drink. 

 

Calvados

A nice way to add a little sophistication to your Jack Rose is to split the Applejack base with a Calvados.  This gives the drink a rounder, "apple-ier" profile that’s a bit more nuanced, whereas with American apple brandy it's more bracing.  Some prefer this version, though I like stiff, bracing qualities of the straight applejack.   More of the difference between the two styles of apple brandy on the Applejack Old Fashioned page.

 
 

Variations & Close Relatives

Pan American Clipper

A nifty Jack Rose variation that is, in some ways, superior.  The simple addition of a little absinthe gives the drink an herbaceous boost and a touch more complexity.  This recipe first appeared in Charles H. Baker’s influential 1939 book: The Gentleman's Companion: Being an Exotic Drinking Book or Around the World with Jigger, Beaker, and Flask.  He recommends calvados, but I personally think applejack is the way to go. The only explanation he offers for the recipe’s origin is that he found it in a notebook of an aviator friend’s who purportedly enjoyed them (off duty of course).  Some bartenders prefer to rinse the glass in absinthe, a la the Sazerac, but I think a few dashes is more effective.  

 

  • 2 oz apple brandy (preferably Laird's 100 proof)

  • scant ½ oz lemon juice

  • scant ½ oz lime juice

  • ¾ oz grenadine

  • 3-4 dashes absinthe

 

Combine all ingredients in a shaker and fill with ice.  Shake for about 8 seconds and strain into a chilled coupe or martini glass. 

Pink Lady

The Pink Lady is not a direct relative of the Jack Rose, but it is at least a second cousin (in truth, it has more in common with the Clover Club).  But like the Jack Rose, it also first appeared in Jack Straub’s “Drinks”, suggesting the two were cut from a similar cloth.  

 

This drink is delightfully bright, fruit-forward, and delicious.  Additionally, it is perfect for teaching a lesson to men who correlate the name and appearance of the cocktails they drink with their perceived level of masculinity (more on my opinion of those types of guys here).  

 

  • 1½ oz gin

  • ½ oz apple brandy or applejack

  • ¾ oz lemon juice

  • ½ oz grenadine

  • ¼ oz simple syrup

  • ½ oz egg white (or about half of a small egg white)

Combine all ingredients in a shaker, shake with no ice for 6-8 seconds to emulsify the egg white.   Fill shaker with ice, shake for about 8 seconds, and fine strain into a chilled coupe or martini glass. 

Jack Rose Origin Story

According to David Wondrich in his always reliable book Imbibe!, the Jack Rose was likely invented at Eberline’s, a popular Wall Street bar, sometime in the 1880 or 90s.  The name was first printed in 1899 by a reporter who had been drinking there. 

Early recipes differ in detail from one another - as they often do for cocktails of this era. Some call for lemon juice - including the first printed recipe in 1905. Others have orange juice, raspberries, and “cider brandy”. 

 

Jack Straub’s recipe in his 1914 book, with it’s amusingly literal title, “Drinks”, is the oldest that most resembles today’s incarnation: applejack, lime, and grenadine, served straight up.

 

Mexican Firing Squad

This drink is essentially a margarita with grenadine.  Which may sound a little humdrum, but the spice from the Angostura bitters, coupled with the vegetal agave flavors and pomegranate, really make it spin.  I like to split the grenadine with a little simple syrup - the flavors harmonize a better that way.

 

This one also first appeared in Charles H. Baker’s Jigger, Beaker, and Flask, in which he recounts how he encountered at La Cucuracha Bar in 1937 Mexico City. “Use a tall glass and snap fingers at the consequences,” he warns (whatever that means).  For what it’s worth, I prefer a rocks glass.

 

I’ll also note that this drink has perhaps the coolest name of all time.  And though it suggests that drinking one is like facing execution, in reality, it will get you no more, or less, drunk than any other typical cocktail.

 

  • 2 oz blanco tequila

  • ¾ oz lime juice

  • ½ oz grenadine

  • ¼ oz simple syrup

  • 2-3 dashes Angostura bitters

 

Combine all ingredients in a shaker and fill with ice.  Shake for about 8 seconds and strain into a rock glass over fresh ice.

 

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tom@socialhourcocktails.com Brooklyn, NY

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