With Jersey Applejack, Lightning Strikes Again

Laird's Applejack brandy was the original Jersey Lightning, Now, writes Libations columnist Tara Nurin, brandy is making a comeback.

In 1780, Scotsman-turned-Jerseyan William Laird established America’s first distillery. His Applejack, an aged apple brandy, was sometimes consumed in unaged form dubbed Jersey Lightning. In 2014, the Laird family, of Scobeyville, sensing a heritage spirits revival, released an official unaged Jersey Lightning.

In fact, not just Applejack “but a lot of different brandies are making a comeback,” says Natalie Jacob, beverage consultant at The Archer, a hip Jersey City bar. She recently created the Born to Run (three guesses who that’s named for), using Applejack, aquavit, Framboise, creme de cacao and lime juice.

Brandy is distilled from many fruits, famously grapes (French Cognac and Armagnac, Peruvian Pisco). Bartenders are reviving classic brandy-based cocktails like the Jack Rose and the Vieux Carré.

“Whether it’s pear brandy in the fall or peach eau de vie in the summer, they work all the time when you pair them with the right ingredients,” Jacob says.

American brandy, once ubiquitous, is beginning to revive on the “really, really high end,” says Morristown cocktail author Warren Bobrow, citing Millard Fillmore, a grape brandy from California’s Craft Distillers, and pear, peach and apple brandies from Catoctin Creek Distillery in Virginia (all available in NJ).

Unionville Vineyards in Ringoes donated vats of pinot noir and pinot grigio to Camden’s Cooper River Distillers. “I took 700 gallons of wine,” says Cooper River owner James Yoakum, “and turned it into 100 gallons of brandy by blending distillate we put into barrels.”

How to begin? William Gozdziewski, bar manager at Mistral in Princeton, stocks many brandies and cognacs. “Some are light and aromatic,” he says, “some are dark and robust, some are in between. It involves a lot of tasting.”

From Natalie Jacob, beverage consultant at The Archer in Jersey City

Born to Run
¾ oz. Apple Brandy
¾ oz. Aquavit
¾ oz. Lime Juice
3/8 oz. Framboise
3/8 oz. Cacao
Add all ingredients to tin, dry shake, and dump into double rocks glass. Top with crushed ice and garnish with a raspberry and grated nutmeg.

Lincoln Park Swizzle
1 1⁄2 oz. Lairds White Apple Brandy
3⁄4 oz. Lime Juice
1⁄2 oz. Cinnamon Syrup
1⁄4 oz. Falernum
Angostura and Peychauds
Add juice and mint to shaker, press gently, add syrup, falernum, and apple brandy, dry shake and dump into footed pilsner, add crushed iced and top with bitters. Add more ice and garnish with healthy bouquet of mint.

Ol’ 55
1 ½ oz. Cognac
½ oz. Pear Liqueur
¾ oz. Lemon Juice
½ oz. Cinnamon Syrup
2 dashes Cardamom Bitters
Add all ingredients to tin, shake with ice, and strain into double rocks glass over ice. Garnish with grated cinnamon.

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