Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman


What cocktail to offer on Independence Day, the day some of the greatest political minds signed the document outlining the most secure and fair methods of governance, formally and with uncommon eloquence and foresight, and obliterating all ties with Great Britain?

I suggest a smash, connoting demolition and also one of our country’s oldest cocktails, featuring one of our oldest spirits. I do so after consulting Brad Thomas Parsons, whose book Bitters I continue to admire. Responding to my email, he wrote:

“Cocktails were born in America, but for that question, I guess I’m thinking less of an iconic drink like an Old-Fashioned or a Manhattan or a Martini, and instead, as it’s the Fourth of July, thinking about a spirit with heritage—something the American colonists might be drinking. Something like applejack or apple brandy. Laird & Company is America’s first commercial distillery, founded in Scobeyville, New Jersey, in 1780.” He went on to describe an Applejack Sazerac created by a friend and concluded, “That being said, I also think something with Kentucky-made bourbon. A Mint Julep or a Whiskey Smash (bourbon, lemon, sugar, mint) would be pretty all-American, and refreshing to boot.”

And that being said, it was only natural for me to turn the bourbon smash into one our forefathers might have enjoyed. (It’s fine to substitute any American whiskey if you have no apple brandy; it’s also acceptable to substitute French Calvados, as the French were our great allies in our war for independence.)

Happy Fourth of July, with hopes that our current and future leaders will have the intelligence and will to sustain our Founding Fathers’ vision.

(Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.)

The Applejack Smash

  • 10 mint leaves
  • 3 ounces Laird Applejack (or any American whiskey or Calvados)
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice
  • 1/2 to 1 ounce simple syrup (the former if you like your cocktail tart)
  • 1 tart American cherry, soaked in simple syrup for a week (or a generic maraschino, as pictured here since the squirrels and chipmunks got all our cherries this year, damn them; I recommend this for appearance and symbolic sake only—I don’t recommend eating it)
  1. Smash the mint in a shaker (or for a very minty drink, using a mortar and pestle), then add the Applejack. Ideally, let the mint steep for 30 minutes or so.
  2. Add the lemon juice and simple syrup to the shaker. Fill the shaker with ice, and shake hard to further smash to the mint.
  3. Pour over ice in a rocks glass (through a strainer if you have one). Garnish with a cherry.


If you liked this post on the Applejack Smash, check out these other links:

© 2014 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2014 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.


7 Wonderful responses to “Happy Fourth of July!
The Applejack Smash”

  • Tags

    My first visceral reaction to Calvados was “what the? ” and then I remembered that without the French, we would not be celebrating independence today.

  • Darcie

    If you use Luxardo maraschino cherries, they’re worth eating (but they are not American). I’m willing to put using them under the rubric that the U.S. is a country of immigrants.

  • Allen

    Ruhlman, you need a good cat to protect your cherry crop.

    I make a large batch of bourbon cherries when they are peak season. Use them in Manhattans, and the liquid ( bourbon and sugar) is a great addition to many cocktails.

    Cheers, happy 4th all.

  • Ken W.

    I think Applejack is one of the great American spirits and I’m all for creating new cocktails in which to use it, so I thank you for this smashing Smash.

    Ever hear of a cocktail called Jersey Girl? It’s

     1 ½oz. Laird’s Applejack
     1 oz. Cointreau
     ½oz. Fresh lime juice
     2 dashes of cranberry juice
    Shake well with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.

    and very good on a warm summer evening.

  • Martin R.

    I tried this as written and had to throw it out (and it takes a lot to make me throw out a drink). I didn’t use a mortar and pestle, but smashed up the mint pretty thoroughly in my shaker, then let it steep, then shook it hard. Not only was the mint overwhelming, but it was awfully bitter. Like really bad toothpaste. I’d always read to treat mint gently, so that’s what I’ve done in the past, and what I’ll do in the future.

  • Paul

    I highly recommend using Laird’s bottled-in-bond straight apple brandy, rather than the Laird’s Applejack. The straight apple brandy has a more pronounced apple flavor than the applejack, which is a mix of 35% apple brandy and 65% neutral spirits. The brandy is also 100 proof, which makes it stand out a little more in cocktails.

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