Bartender’s Best

By Charlie Wohlrab

Fall. . .the bittersweet season. Mornings are cool and afternoons are pleasant. The colors are vibrant, but winter is around the corner. It’s definitely the best time of the year to enjoy one of my favorite cocktails, the Jack Rose.  This cocktail is from the 1920s or 30s and gets its name from Laird’s Applejack and the bold color of the cocktail.

A word about the ingredients. I use Laird’s Applejack. This liquor dates back to 1698 and although the Laid family now steam distill  and no longer “jack” it, the liquor is still a matter of principle. Laird’s Applejack is probably America’s oldest spirit still enjoyed. Rumor is the Lairds shared their recipe only once, to a Mr. George Washington.  Obviously, with today’s standards and regulations, they had to change the process a bit, but the Laird Company is still a family operation and they produce a fine spirit.

A word about Grenadine Syrup. “Grenadine” is the French word for pomegranate, as the original Grenadine was a combination of pomegranate juice, cane sugar and water. But the Grenadine Syrup that is most familiar today is basically high fructose corn syrup, water, red dye, “natural” flavors, and the other usual suspects. You can still find Grenadine made from pomegranate juice and cane sugar at some liquor and grocery stores, or as always on the internet.  Even these have “added ingredients” and/or “colors,” and tend to be a reddish-brown or brownish-red, and just don’t impart that festive red color.  However, when you find one, it is worth a purchase just to try it. I have used both. They make a fine tasting cocktail, but the presentation is just not there with the “natural.” You can use the natural one for your natural foodie friends and the more common Grenadine when you want a cocktail that really looks festive.

Jack Rose
• 2 ounces Laird’s Applejack
• ¾ ounce lemon juice (bottled is fine)
•¾ ounce Grenadine
• A dash of Peychaud’s Bitters (if you have it)

Half fill a cocktail shaker with ice, add ingredients, shake and strain into stemmed cocktail glass. This cocktail also looks good in a Champagne Flute and is actually a better use for this glass than Champagne.  This is a great cocktail to enjoy among the great fall colors.

Tequila Sunrise
• 1 ½ ounce Tequila
Orange juice

Fill a tall glass with crushed ice, add orange juice and tequila, give a gentle stir, and drizzle grenadine over the top. This cocktail will emphasize the difference in appearance of the two types of Grenadine.

A quick word about Tequila. Read the label in the store and look for two things:   “Hecho in Mexico” and “Distilled from the Agave plant.” It’s a matter of principle.

Happy Fall!

Charlie Wohlrab is a mixologist whose motto, “Drinking. . .more than a hobby” has been topmost in his mind since he first started tending bar while getting his Pharmacy degree. Now retired, when he’s not restoring his older home in New Jersey, he’s made it his goal to elevate the experience of having a daily cocktail from something mundane to something more exciting. He is now Harrisburg Magazine’s official bartender in residence.

My recipes are like my opinions,” says Wohlrab. “They continue to be refined as I try new products and work with old standbys.” Currently working on a book about cocktails, Wolhrab welcomes comments from his readers. He can be contacted at