Applejack cocktails were originally made from the uniquely North American potable applejack, an 80- to 100-proof brandy aged for two years in wood. One might speculate why the applejack cocktail is on the endangered species list, particularly with apple-flavored cocktails so common. The reason is that the majority of modern apple cocktails are made from apple-based spirits other than applejack. The French apple brandy Calvados is a subtle, fruity breed by comparison. Unlike aged apple brandies, this white lightning is produced by a process known as jacking, in which cold temperatures work to separate the water and alcohol by taking advantage of their different freezing points. The water freezes into ice and is strained out of the mixture while the ethyl alcohol remains liquid, resulting in a higher alcohol concentration. Applejack was an old standby of the early colonists and, also known as “Jersey Lightning,” was favored during Prohibition for its comparative ease of home brewing. A local affectionate name in New England for applejack was essence of lockjaw.
With a true applejack drink at your side, you would most likely clean a musket on a dusty front porch with your hunting dog, Blue, snoring by your side.