Friday, December 20, 2013

Cocktail of the Week: The Jack Rabbit

For the last Cocktail of the Week before the holidays – and the final original CotW post of 2013 – I want to break new ground. David Embury observed that “the overwhelming majority of our cocktails are of the Sour type.” Endless invention springs from an elemental formula of spirit, citrus, and sweetener. That third ingredient might seem the most prosaic, but even in the drinks featured here it has come in several forms. Sugar, either as bitters-soaked cube or simple syrup. Grenadine. Honey. Certain liqueurs, like Cointreau.

With the Jack Rabbit, we’re going all Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys on the sour. That’s right. Time to bust out the maple syrup.

The Jack Rabbit, originally known as the Applejack Rabbit, turns up in 1927’s Here’s How! by the pseudonymous “Judge Jr.” Much of that guide was cannibalized by Harry Craddock for his Savoy Cocktail Book three years later. Early recipes called for equal parts maple syrup and apple brandy, astonishingly “one hooker” or approximately two and a half ounces of each. Tastes and syrups were obviously different then, but this is a ratio right out of Super Troopers. Embury, in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks (1948), offered a spirit-forward version. He deemed it “not half bad” and also noted that the drink is sometimes known as the Applejack Dynamite “for no reason at all.” Perhaps because it’s better than not half bad.

Jim Meehan helped restore the Rabbit’s glory (as well as its longer name) by including it in The PDT Cocktail Book. He specifically recommends Grade B maple syrup, the darker, thicker variety with a more intense flavor that makes it superior in cooking and baking. I don’t do much cooking and baking. I do eat a lot of pancakes, though, so what I had on hand was Grade A dark amber syrup – think of it as the highest level of the maple minor leagues – and that served me in good stead.

The recipe below comes courtesy of Erik Hakkinen of the Zig Zag Café. The Jack Rabbit practically demands to be served at brunch; maple and apple pair as wonderfully in the glass as they do on the breakfast plate, with the zing of lemon an added bonus. Not that you should limit this cocktail to sprawling midday repasts. Enjoy one anytime this season, while chestnuts roast on an open fire, or you draft the litany of half-truths that constitutes your holiday newsletter, or you search feverishly for the Allen wrench that’s supposed to be in the box. It’s too good a drink to pass up.

PS. My holiday newsletter will be a little late this year. But it’ll be worth waiting for.

The Jack Rabbit

1 ½ oz. Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy
½ oz. maple syrup
½ oz. orange juice
½ oz. lemon juice

Shake vigorously. Strain. Garnish with a lemon peel.

Want more Cocktail of the Week? The first fifty-two essays are available in the Kindle bestseller DOWN THE HATCH: ONE MAN’S ONE YEAR ODYSSEY THROUGH CLASSIC COCKTAIL RECIPES AND LORE. Buy it now at