B. V. D.; Applejack Manhattan – David Embury

Made exactly Like the Manhattan but with apple brandy instead of whisky

The whole subject of applejack cocktails might be summed up by saying that if you can get a well-made, thoroughly matured apple brandy (let us say at least six to eight years old) you can safely use it in place of grape brandy in any brandy drink. The flavour, of course, will differ from that of cognac but only as the flavour of bourbon differs from that of rye. You may like one better than the other, just as you have a preference between strawberries and raspberries or between oysters and clams, but, except for taste preferences, the one should make just as fine a drink as the other. And, by the same token, if you cannot get an apple brandy that is well made and well-aged cannot make good applejack drinks any more than you could make good drinks with bathtub gin or with ‘White Mule’ fresh from the still

Applejack has a fond place in my heart. I remember picking up Embury for the first time and seeing a Jack Rose as one of his 6 basic drinks, noticing that one of the ingredients was applejack, and failing to find it anywhere in the UK. It was at a time when the internet was in its infancy and info on something like this was hard to find. I tried the drink with Calvados, but it just didn’t taste right.

A year or two later I won the Millers Gin cocktail competition, and a trip to New York, and managed to combine this with a drive up to Gary Regan’s ‘Cocktails in the Country’. One of the other guests here was Lisa Laird, of Lairds Applejack.

With Scottish heritage the Lairds came to the new world armed with knowledge of distillation in 1698, which they quickly turned onto the abundant supply of North American apples. Robert Laird received his first distilling license in 1780. And not only did he serve under George Washington, but he also shared his applejack recipe with him. The distillery lasted through Prohibition as well, with the family turning to cider and apple sauce as an alternative to hard liquor during the noble experiment, allegedly.

When I arrived back in London I introduced Lisa to Amathus Drinks, and soon after we had Applejack on tap in the UK, and its stayed on my back bar ever since. I was a happy man.

However, it’s only been in the last couple of months of delving into these old recipes that I’ve gone past a Jack Rose when trying classics with it. I’m beginning to feel a little silly. As Embury notes applejack can be swapped easily with brandy, and I suspect bourbon as well as this drink works beautifully. It doesn’t seem to have the same depth as whiskey, although the fruity flavours carry through nicely and the applejack really opens up when diluted down a little with a supporting cast and ice water.

I have no idea where the initials B.V.D. come from for this drink, a note on the page states another cocktail sometimes called the B.V.D. is made with French Vermouth, gin and rum. If that rum was Bacardi I guess you’d have Bacardi, Vermouth and Dry Gin, either that or its Bovine Viral Diarrhoea.

The latter seems a little mean spirited for this drink, even for Embury.