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Apple Jack Rose | Gangsters Favorite Thanksgiving Cocktail

Jack Rose the gangster & the apple brandy pomegranate cocktail.


Want a drink with ties to the mob, Thanksgiving and the historical heights of home bars?  Then the “Jack Rose” may be the Thanksgiving tipple to tribute the times along with the twist you’re looking for.

Popular during the 1920s and again thru the 1950s, both home bar heydays, the Jack Rose was listed as one of six basic cocktails in David Embury’s 1948 bartending book The Fine Art Of Mixing Drinks.  The five other essentials included were the Daiquiri, Manhattan, Martini, Old Fashioned and the Sidecar.

Applejack is what gives this tipple its Thanksgiving theme.  Apple brandy a.k.a applejack dates back to colonial times as a very popular drink with the pilgrims and is still produced by Laird’s, the nation’s oldest distillery, who have been making it since the 1600s.

The tie in with criminal gangsters may be questionable at best, but here are some of the arguments.  It all has to do with the name of the cocktail itself.  As you can imagine, tall tales abound as to the origin which may or may not actually be true.

Perhaps the most popular and definitely the most interesting theory involves a small time New York gangster known as Bald Jack Rose.  The hat wearing hit man was accused of shooting Herman Rosenthal in a 1912 murder case which was considered the trial of the century at the time.

He became a stool pigeon as the star witness for the prosecutor exposing the corruption connection between police and organized crime.  Famous and freed after his testimony, his favorite drink of applejack, lime juice and grenadine was dubbed the Jack Rose, which some claim he actually named himself to capitalize on his fame while in the catering business afterwards.  The end.


Not so fast, here’s a quick rundown on some of the other naming theories:

a)  Jack Rose is simply a shortened abbreviation of apple jack and the rose color of the cocktail from the pomegranate juice.

b)  “We had always assumed the Jack Rose’s moniker was derived from its color, but some suggest it was named for the French general Jean-François Jacqueminot, for whom the rose is also named.” ~ Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century

c)  An ancestor of the Laird family named Jack created it at the Colt’s Neck Inn in New Jersey, which was originally owned by the applejack distillers.  This one is absolutely false according to Lisa Laird-Dunn, a nine generation descendent.

There are a couple more stories floating around crediting bartenders in both Jersey City and Newark, New Jersey bars as the drink’s inventors, but with historians seemingly unable to agree, here are the ingredients to this simply delicious cocktail.


Jack Rose Cocktail Recipe:

  • 2 oz  Laird’s Applejack ( apple brandy )
  • 1 oz  lime juice
  • 1/2 oz  grenadine ( pomegranate syrup )

Add ice and all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker.  Shake thoroughly and strain into a chilled stemmed glass.  Garnish with slice of lime.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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