• A Cocktail For Election Day: The Tammany Jack

    The Tammany Jack.

    As election day comes to America, there is one thing almost every American can agree upon, “thank God it’s OVER!”. And regardless of who wins, we think everyone deserves a good, stiff drink (or a cupcake, check back shortly). And, not too long ago, many a voter could be swayed by the promise of a free sip (or two, or three, or four) of booze. Back then, we assume the drink might have been a toddy. A simple combination of spirits, hot water, sugar and spices, a toddy is a perfect warming sip on a cold November day. (It’s eighty degrees in California, but bear with us).

    The Tammany Jack is our version of a fall-themed toddy. It combines rye whiskey (or bourbon), Applejack, cinnamon syrup, lemon juice, bitters and hot water (a dash of allspice liqueur is a good bonus). Garnished with a cinnamon stick, a slice of lemon and freshly grated nutmeg, the Tammany Jack not only tastes good, but smells like a blast of holiday spice. A strong, warm and comforting sip. And if you don’t have Applejack or rye, don’t despair. You can make a toddy of almost any spirit or sweetener. Both Liquid Culture Project (Scotch) and Measure & Stir (apricot-infused Bourbon) have good recipes, but any whiskey, brandy or dark rum can make for an excellent toddy. And every bar has sugar, spices and hot water. Toddies are worth a try.

    We named our toddy after the famous 19th and early 20th century New York political machine “Tammany Hall”. Tammany has a very mixed reputation, as they were known for corruption, but also representing early immigrant groups. Tammany was also known for getting out the vote, and liquor (along with cash and favors), was certainly a key electoral tool (see the period political cartoon below). We named the rest of the cocktail after the Laird’s applejack we use in recipe. Applejack comes from New Jersey and was a popular local spirit in 19th century New York. Back then dozen of local distillers made Applejack, but these days Laird’s is one of the few options. Happily, Laird’s Bonded Applejack is a high-quality apple brandy that is a worthy addition to any bar. (Yes, we are on a bit of a rye and Applejack jag, sorry).

    Tammany and the Liquor Dealers (From HarpWeek).

    Finally, the recipe calls for cinnamon syrup. You can buy cinnamon syrup at many liquor stores or supermarkets, but it is very easy to make at home. Simply make a simple syrup with white, or preferably turbinado or Demerara sugar (recipe here). Then add a few cinnamon sticks to the syrup once you take it off the heat and let the cinnamon steep for about half an hour.Take out the cinnamon sticks and you have cinnamon syrup. You can use the cinnamon syrup for a twist on an old-fashioned, or in tiki drinks. But since it’s cold and the election is almost over, why not try it in a toddy like the Tammany Jack?

    The Tammany Jack:


    • 1 oz. rye whiskey (Rittenhouse bonded) or bourbon
    • 1 oz. Applejack (Laird’s bonded)
    • 3/4 oz. cinnamon syrup
    • 3 oz. very hot water
    • 3-4 drops lemon juice
    • 3 dashes bitters (Bittermens Tiki and/or Angostura)
    • 2 dashes allspice liqueur (optional)
    • Lemon wheel, for garnish
    • Cinnamon stick, for garnish (optional)
    • Freshly grated nutmeg


    1. Warm a mug with hot water for 30 seconds. Pour out that water then add the rye, Applejack, cinnamon syrup, lemon juice, bitters, allspice liqueur (if using) and 3 oz of hot water. Stir and then garnish with the lemon wheel, cinnamon stick and a grating of nutmeg. Serve.
  • Bonus Cocktail: The Applejack Rabbit

    The Applejack Rabbit.

    Fall is here! Well…kinda…sorta…almost…spiritually…uh, whatever. Labor Day is gone, the kids are back in school, and now we feel free to post “fall-themed” cocktails. And when we think autumn, we think apples. And if you like eating (and drinking) with the season, there is nothing quite like Applejack, the great American brandy. And there is no better Applejack cocktail than the Applejack Rabbit.

    Unfamiliar with Applejack? It is the first great American spirit. Way before Americans fell in love with whiskey, we turned our apples into cider and then let that cider turn to apple brandy. How? In the “old” days of the 18th century thirsty Americans would leave out their “hard” apple cider in winter, and as it froze they would remove chunks of ice. The ice was mostly water, as the alcohol has a lower freezing point, so what was left over became ever-stronger apple brandy.  And it was usually potable, but quality could be spotty (and perhaps just short of lethal).

    Laird’s “Bonded” Applejack, really good stuff.

    But soon enough, American’s started to distill their Applejack and it has been a consistently tasty, tangy brandy ever since. And as late as the 1920’s, Applejack was a popular cocktail spirit. But prohibition almost killed Applejack distillation. Only Laird & co. of New Jersey survived as a real business. And this is somewhat fitting, as the Laird’s distillery, founded in 1780, is possibly the longest continuously operated distillery in the country. And their Applejack is very, very tasty- and affordable.

    But one quick note, if buying Applejack, you want the Laird’s “Bonded” Applejack- this version is pure apple brandy and will run you between $20-$30. And what you get is a smooth brandy that has the body of bourbon and the apple flavor of Calvados, but with an extra apple “tang” similar to a green apple Jolly Rancher candy (sorry, but that is what it tastes like). Great stuff and you can use it as a substitute for both whiskey and Calvados in cocktails. If you find it, we suggest you add Applejack to your bar, you can use Applejack in Old Fashioneds or in classics like the Jack Rose. You can even use it in apple desserts….more on that soon.

    As for the cocktail, the Applejack Rabbit combines Applejack, orange juice, lemon juice and maple syrup. Maple syrup is not a common cocktail sweetener, but it works wonders with the Applejack. The citrus adds a sour balance and more depth, but make no mistake, this is an apple cocktail. Most recipes suggest grade B maple syrup, but any good maple syrup will work. And as this cocktail has been around a while, there are many recipes. We use a version from the PDT cocktail book, as Jim Meehan’s recipes usually work well with current tastes. And the Applejack Rabbit is a perfect drink for the season, the apple and maple syrup almost scream out that the seasons are changing…and while we always miss summer, a little Applejack certainly eases the transition…

    The Applejack Rabbit:


    • 2 oz. Applejack (Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy)
    • 3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
    • 3/4 oz. fresh orange juice
    • 1/2 oz. real maple syrup


    1. Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake thoroughly and strain into a chilled cocktail glass, flute or coupe’. No garnish. Serve.