Made From Scratch: The Jack Rose

It’s Mixology Monday time again. This month’s extravaganza is hosted over at… well… right here! The theme this month is Made From Scratch, and our charge is to make a cocktail that is improved by the use of one or more homemade alternatives to commercially available ingredients. Come back soon for my full rundown on how things went.
My own contribution is a cocktail known as the Jack Rose. It is a cocktail I’ve been playing with off and on for a couple of months now. Something told me that I would love this cocktail when I first really looked at it, and I was (eventually) right. Interestingly, in all my experimentation with this tipple, I’ve never deviated from the first recipe I used; everything I fiddled with related to ingredients.

  • 2 oz. Applejack
  • 1 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
  • 1/2 oz. Rose’s Grenadine

Shake gently and strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.

(Note: Like so many of my best cocktail adventures, including the Pegu itself, I first noticed this cocktail in Paul Harrington’s Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century.)
My first run through this required a quick stop at the store for a bottle of Laird’s Applejack. Applejack (American apple brandy) was a spirit I had never tried before, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how inexpensive it is. I mixed up the Jack Rose as shown and tried it. Frankly, it was nasty. I smelled and tasted the Applejack and it did not seem to be the source of the funkiness. I was contemplating scratching this off the list as a drink that just wasn’t for me, when the good fortune of running out of storage space for all my bottles struck.
My eyes fell on the bottle of Stirrings Grenadine that I had bought a month before on a whim. I had not reorganized my cabinets yet, and the bottle was standing guard in a corner of my back bar. The incredible, radical, nay revolutionary thought occurred to me that the Rose’s Grenadine that works so well in my daughters’ Shirley Temples might not be ideal for my purpose here. I popped the seal on the Stirrings, which is made with actual pomegranite, and mixed up another batch. The resulting drink was much paler in color, thinner but more complex in flavor, and only a little better tasting while actually less attractive in the glass.
I would be remiss here if I did not report that my daughters both gave the Stirrings a hearty thumbs down in the Kiddie Cocktail department.
The drink was still not working, but I thought I had the problem identified. There was a distinct canned flavor present that was killing the drink. As stated, it wasn’t the Applejack. And it darn sure wasn’t the really good limes I happened to have in inventory! That left the Grenadine, and I thought I’d have some fun and give it one last try. After all, I had a bottle of pretty good Lakewood Pure Pomegranate Juice sitting in my bar fridge, the leftovers from some earlier failed experiments with Pama. Longtime Pegu Blog readers will know I’m partial to Lakewood, since they won the shortcut competition a while back with their lime juice.
I cast about the web for articles on making Grenadine and was gladdened to see a write-up by someone I knew and trusted, Paul Clarke at The Cocktail Chronicles. He presents both a cold process Grenadine and a cooked version. I made both. I’ll let you follow the link if you want to learn how to make the hot process version. It’s good, but I prefer the cold process version. My daughters quickly used up the cooked stuff in their Shirleys, but the little Visigoths still prefer Rose’s!

COLD PROCESS GRENADINE

  • 1 part Pure Pomegranate Juice (be careful about the pure part!)
  • 1 part Cane Sugar
  • 1 oz. high-proof Vodka as a preservative

Combine juice and sugar in a jar, seal and shake like you’re an obsessive compulsive Eben Freeman, until dissolved. Then add a bit more sugar and repeat. Add the vodka and refrigerate. It’ll likely last until you use it up.

What?
You are going to leave them with those instructions?

Ladies and gentlemen, my lovely wife.

It takes forever that way, and you look like an idiot the whole time!
Not that you don’t look like an idiot regard….

Thank you, Dear! I’ll tell them.
The second time I was making up a batch of Grenadine (the first being consumed fairly rapidly), Maggi walked in to see me madly shaking the Ball Jar. She simply shook her head, walked over to the cabinet, pulled out the stick blender, and handed it to me. Then left wordlessly.
Shaking this stuff by hand takes several minutes all told. More as you try to get the last couple of tablespoons to dissolve. The stick blender takes about 15 seconds. The resulting mix is more stable and will hold even more sugar if you want. When you are first done, it’ll have so many bubble that you’ll think it’s carbonated, but they settle out very quickly if you leave the bottle alone. Mix your Grenadine this way; it saves time, embarrassment, and Bartender’s Elbow.
Back to the Jack Rose. I took my concoction to the bar and had a third go at this baby.

Wow. It is a magnificent cocktail.
It was big fat hairy deal in the 20′s and 30′s, and almost no one drinks it now. I had thought this was because few bars have Applejack in stock, but I’m now betting that the real reason the Jack Rose faded was the rise of modern, commercial Grenadine.
The cocktail is clean and crisp and smooth. While redolent of apple cider, lot of subtle flavors come out to play when the canned overtones of commercial Grenadine are removed. It is a little sweeter than most cocktails I drink, but it is not sweet, per se. It isn’t too strong a cocktail either.
I really think that a bar which keeps homemade Grenadine in the well ought to promote the Jack Rose as a more interesting, elegant alternative to the Cosmopolitan. It’s a chick drink for broads. Or a broad drink for chicks.
In fact, with the Appletini dead and buried, its stinking corpse the plaything of voodoo doctors, perhaps we should slip the Jack Rose in its place. That’s it: The Jack Rose—The Appletini for the Craft Cocktail Generation! I’ve been trying and failing to come up with a drinkable Appletini for months, and now I realize I’ve been drinking them all along.
And there you have it. The Jack Rose is a cocktail that is made better (is made drinkable at all) by a Made From Scratch alternative to a commercial product, Grenadine. The homemade stuff is easy to make and stores well. You should add the syrup to your fridge, and the drink to your repertoire.

Addendum:
There was one other experiment I did with this cocktail that had nothing to do with the Grenadine. When I had this drink down the way I liked, I stumbled across a bottle of Calvados in a liquor store I haunt. Hmmm. Laird’s is fourteen bucks. Calvados is forty five! And it’s French! Oh La La! Let’s make a really premium Jack Rose….
Let this be a lesson to you, children! The more expensive liquor is not always the best choice. Don’t waste your Calvados on a Jack Rose. Or don’t waste your Jack Rose on Calvados. Regardless, the two are not interchangeable. I’m sure the French would agree.

About the author

Doug

I am 48 years old, married with two young daughters. My interests are tennis, reading, computers, politics, and of course cocktails. I run a murder mystery party business that caters to both corporate and private events, Killing Time, murder consultants.

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