Applejack – America’s Forgotten Liquor

Until the recent surge in mixing classic cocktails, Applejack had become a forgotten gem of America’s drinking culture. Surprisingly, however, this liquor plays part in some of our most traditional drinks.

Finding new cocktails to try is something that has always intrigued me. Mixing standard liquors with odd washes like guava juice was a great way for me to find what I like and don’t like and has given me the ability to offer the best advice to those who are looking for a new taste.

But I’d never heard of applejack. At least, I’d never heard of the liquor called applejack. I had, of course, heard of the combination of apple schnapps and Jack Daniels that made my friends and me pucker our lips and shake out the dry whiskey taste. But the two are far from the same.

The first time I heard of applejack was when I received a comment from a reader who was offended that I would use apple schnapps in anything, and recommended that I try the old spirit by mixing up a classic Jack Rose. After that, I kept running into the booze in my readings and conversations. So I decided it was time to learn a little bit about this old colonial favorite.

Freeze Distillation

Applejack is traditionally made from concentrating hard cider by a method of freeze distillation. Freeze distillation is a process of concentrating the alcohol in a fermented beverage by freezing it, then removing the frozen material. Because water freezes before the alcohol, the more the beverage is frozen, the more water is removed, leaving a higher concentration of alcohol when the freezing process is complete.

The drink tastes strongly of apples (due to the cider), and because jacking is a term used for freeze distillation, the liquor was named applejack. Because of the possible dangers of freeze distillation, this process has become less popular and is illegal in many countries. You must have a license to use this process, so please do not try it at home.

The Origin of Applejack

It seems that applejack was discovered by accident. In the 17th century, northern American farmers would leave their hard cider outside during the winter months to keep it cold. Any liquid that froze was removed, leaving a more potent blend behind. Once this became apparent, people began collecting apples and creating their own.

Applejack Cocktail Recipes

Jack Rose

The original applejack cocktail.

  • 1 1/2 oz Applejack,
  • 1/2 oz Grenadine,
  • The Juice of 1/2 Lime

Fill a shaker over half full of ice and pour in the ingredients. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.


Don’t upset it.

  • 1 1/2 oz Applejack
  • 1 oz Triple Sec
  • 1/2 oz Lemon juice

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake well and strain into chilled cocktail glass.

Widow’s Kiss

  • 1 1/2 oz Applejack
  • 1/2 oz Chartreuse Green
  • 3/4 oz Benedictine Liqueur
  • 2 Dashes of Bitters

Stir with small amount of ice and strain into a champagne glass. Garnish with a cherry.

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