There is no better way to celebrate your Fourth of July weekend than by drinking and mixing with American Spirits. One of my favorites has always been Lairds Applejack.
The Lairds have been producing Apple Brandy in Monmouth County, New Jersey for almost 300 years, passing down their recipe from generation to generation. They are the oldest commercial and family owned distillery in the country holding license number 1. In fact, historical records show that in 1760 or before, General George Washington wrote to the Laird family requesting their recipe for producing Applejack, which the Laird family supplied. George Washington is the only other known person besides the Laird family to have the recipe. Abraham Lincoln also served Applejack in his New Salem, Illinois tavern. It doesn't get more American than that.
Apple Brandy fell out of popularity somewhere in the mid century, only being a favorite of old timers sipping on it at their local watering holes. This all changed with the craft cocktail boom of the early 2000s which ushered in a renaissance of enjoying classic cocktails like the Jack Rose again. Suddenly a rather obscure spirit became a cocktail bar staple with a cult following. Nowadays you're lucky to get your hands on a bottle of it, as bars all across the country struggle to keep it in stock. Laird & Company has been the sole producer of this spirit category since the end of prohibition with only recently some small craft distilleries releasing their own version of apple brandy.
In 2013 I was lucky enough to visit the distillery, which you can read all about here in my article that was featured in Edible Magazine. I have always placed this spirit on all the menus I have put together because of its importance, as well as included it on the menus of establishments I have worked at over the years. In 2011 my recipe for the Hamilton Park Swizzle was in the Summer of Tiki issue of Imbibe Magazine. It was also on the menu at Lani Kai, a now shuddered modern tropical bar owned by Julie Reiner in the Soho section of Manhattan.
Since then it has always been my project to create variations on the Queens Park Swizzle cocktail and name them after parks in Jersey City, NJ where I am from and still reside. I have also created the Van Vorst Park, the Lincoln Park, and now in honor of the holiday weekend that is upon us I have put together the Liberty State Park Swizzle. For those of us that will be spending the fourth there watching the fireworks in the shadows of the Statue of Liberty herself, this is what you should be drinking.
I used Lairds newest product, Jersey Lightning, a clear, un-aged apple distillate. It is boldly flavored with super crisp and fresh apple notes, a moonshine-esque liquid that’s a wonderful candidate for mixing in drinks. It’s also 100 proof. You were warned.
Liberty State Park Swizzle
1 1/2 oz. Lairds Jersey Lightning
3/4 oz. Lemon Juice
1/2 oz. Honey Syrup
1/4 oz. Ginger Syrup
1/2 oz. Float of Campari
Handful of mint and blueberries
In your serving vessel put your handful of mint and blueberries. In your mixing tin add all your ingredients except the Campari, dry shake, and pour a splash in your serving vessel. Muddle the mint and blueberries, add ice, and pour the remainder of your cocktail into the glass, float Campari. Garnish with a lavish bouquet of mint, blueberries, and dusting of powdered sugar. I love powdered sugar!