What could these things have in common? They're the various origin stories surrounding the Jack Rose cocktail. None of them have anything to do with Jack Rose Dining Saloon, the fantastic bar in Washington. The metaphorically colorful story is the drink was named for Bald Jack Rose. Rose, who had alopecia universalis (no hair anywhere), was an early 20th century New York City gambler with links to organized crime and corrupt cops. The literally colorful story is the cocktail is named for the Jacqueminot rose, which is pink. Last but not least, a New Jersey bartender named Frank May, who for no apparent reason also went by the name Jack Rose, created the drink no later than 1905. Which story probably is the right one? Keep reading.
2 ounces apple brandy or applejack (see below)
Juice from 1/4 lemon or 1/2 lime
.5 ounces glorious grenadine
Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the energy of telling a colorful story, and strain into a chilled glass. Lemon or lime twist optional.
If you compare apples to apples, apple brandy and applejack are very similar but not the same. Modern applejack is a blend of apple brandy and grain neutral spirits. You can use either one in the Jack Rose, as well as other tasty cocktails such as the Diamondback, the Newark, and the American Apple. Some people in the cocktail community insist a Jack Rose must have lemon juice, while others insist it must have lime juice. My suggestion? Use whichever one you prefer or have on hand. The glorious grenadine is the common denominator of a Jack Rose. It pulls everything together as it injects a hint of sweetness.
So which origin story do I think is correct? The one that isn't colorful -- the bartender Frank May. Why? First, the newspaper reference to him creating it (1905) is a few years before Bald Jack Rose became infamous for his involvement in an underworld murder that exposed corruption in the New York City Police Department (1912). Second, May plied his craft in New Jersey, where applejack has a strong history. Third, even though the gambler Jack Rose reputedly enjoyed this cocktail, I'd take odds (pun intended) a bartender created it.
It doesn't matter which story you like. What matters is you try a delicious Jack Rose. Cheers!