In 1780, operating out of the family center of operations at the "Colt's Neck Inn", Robert started "Laird & Co." and received United States Liquor license #1. The company still has records that date all the way back to this beginning!
|James and Joseph Laird on left. Door to bonded warehouse indicating licence #1 on right.
Although at one point there were more than 400 small, farm-based distilleries in New Jersey making applejack, Laird's is now the only one left from that group.
Current law requires that any "applejack" be aged in used bourbon barrels for a minimum of four years. The 80-proof bottle easily found on shelves in any liquor store is a product of the 1970's. At the time, it was created in response to America's growing taste for "lighter "spirits.
Laird's 80-proof applejack is made up of a blend of 35% straight apple brandy and 65% neutral grain spirits. It takes about 6 pounds of apples on average to make one bottle of this blend.
The un-blended styles, basically apple whiskeys, are still available.There is the Laird's 100-proof straight apple brandy, Laird's 80-proof Old Apple Brandy (Aged for a minimum of seven and a half years), and Laird's 88-proof 12 Year old apple brandy.
These are hard to find however. The easiest of the un-blended expressions to find is the 100-proof, straight apple brandy. Here the brandy that makes up only 35% of the 80-proof "applejack" is bottled at full strength. It takes around 20 pounds of apples to make a single bottle of this spirit!
One of the more interesting facts to come to light when researching America's love for applejack, regards one John Chapman, a.k.a. "Johnny Appleseed".
We were taught as school children that Johnny Appleseed wandered the country barefooted, wearing tin pots on his head and spreading apple seeds randomly. All bollocks with the exception of the bare feet, and then only in the summer to "save on leather".
He actually planted nurseries rather than orchards, going so far as to build fences around the nurseries to protect them from livestock. He would leave the nurseries in the care of a local, who would sell the trees on shares. John would return every year or two to tend to the nurseries.
Chapman's managers were asked to sell the trees on credit. He would accept corn meal, cash or used clothing in barter. While Chapman was hardly alone in this business pattern, he was unusual in that he remained a wanderer his entire life.
Here's the real kicker. It was the (hard) cider industry that drove this activity. By Chapman's time, the nation's thirst for cider and apple brandy was greater than what the supply of apples could provide! A fact conveniently omitted from the Appleseed legend.
Grenadine derives it's name from the French word grenade, meaning pomegranate. True grenadine syrup is made from the pomegranate's juice. Nearly every culture in the world has cultivated and revered the pomegranate as a symbol of fertility and abundance. (There's a great wiki on it here.)
By medieval times or even earlier, pomegranates have been processed into all sorts of syrups and tinctures.
It's first use in barcraft is often (and erroneously) accredited to a bartender by the name of "Jack Bender". Jack is said to have used grenadine for the first time when he introduced the original Sea Breeze cocktail in the 1920's.
Since bartending manuals were calling for grenadine in the Jack Rose (and other) recipes as early as 1910, we can assume that the credit should go elsewhere and that it was a fairly common ingredient by the 1920's
Today's ubiquitous "Rose's" grenadine, is compiled mainly of high fructose corn syrup. It is artificially flavored to taste more like raspberries than pomegranates.
For off the shelf choices, Stirrings makes a decent pomegranate grenadine, and Monin's Pomegranate syrup works well too (if not better).
If you want to make the fresh stuff, you can easily make your own grenadine with a pomegranate juice like POM's, but it's likely to result in a dark product that will turn your cocktails brown.
I used POM juice the last time I made grenadine at home and it was not terrible aside from the muddy appearance it gave my cocktails. I decided to pick up some fresh pomegranates and make it with fresh juice this time, and what a difference! Fresh pomegranate juice is definitely the way to go.
1 cup fresh pomegranate juice
1 cup unbleached sugar
1/2 oz Tanqueray 10 (or other high proof, quality gin)
1/4 oz Monin's Raspberry syrup
1/4 oz DeKuyper Bessen Genever (you could use Plymouth sloe gin)
1 barspoon orange flower water
1) Juice the pomegranates. You will need a sturdy juicer with a cone and seed catcher.
2) Strain the juice.
|What a color!
|Jacob "Bald Jack" Rosenweig (1875-Oct 4, 1947)
3/4 oz simple syrup
3/4 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/4 oz grenadine
Apple Slice, for garnish
Maraschino cherry, for garnish
Combine applejack, syrup, lemon juice, and grenadine in a mixing glass with ice and shake well. Strain into a small cocktail glass and garnish with the apple slice and cherry.
2 or more dashes of real pomegranate grenadine
Shake well in an iced cocktail shaker, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a lime (or lemon) wedge.
1/2 ounce (15ml) grenadine
Shake well with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
2 ounces applejack
1 ounce lime juice
1/2 ounce grenadine
Shake the applejack and other ingredients well with cracked ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Gary Reagan, Joy of Mixology
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
grenadine to taste
1 lemon twist, for garnish
SHAKE AND STRAIN into a chilled cocktail glass. Add the garnish.
Splitting the difference at 1/3 oz grenadine and 2/3 oz lime juice and I was back in the pleasure zone with all the wonderful qualities that appeared in the lemon drink reemerging without loosing the bite of the lime. (Be careful though, even sharing the experiments with my wife, we found that the potent 100-proof applejack can really sneak up on you quickly!)