The Jack Rose

Jack Rose

Two recipes from which to choose:

Traditional recipe:

2 oz Applejack or Calvados

½ oz fresh lime or lemon juice

¼ oz Grenadine (preferably genuine pomegranate)


Shake well with ice, strain into chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with twist of lime or lemon peel.

 Harry MacElhone’s 1920s Paris recipe:

 1 ½ oz Applejack or Calvados

¾ oz dry gin

¾ oz orange juice

¾ oz fresh lemon or lime juice

1/3 oz French vermouth

1/3 oz Italian vermouth

Grenadine to colour (about 1/3 oz)

Shake well with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with twist of lime or lemon peel.

 Recipe adapted from Barflies and Cocktails, 1927 edition

Note:  AppleJack, which like its French cousin Calvados, is nothing more than distilled apple cider or apple brandy.  Also known as “Jersey Lightning,” it is believed to be the oldest distilled spirit in the U.S., and is still made by Laird & Company distillers, of Scobeyville, New Jersey (est. 1780).  George Washington made use of the Laird’s AppleJack recipe when he set up distilling operations of his own at Mount Vernon in the 1760s.

 Perhaps fitting for an apple drink, the Jack Rose’s “creation theory” is the subject of some debate.  One theory is quite simple: it’s a rose-colored drink made from AppleJack brandy.  If you’re thirsty, I suggest you stop reading right now and fix yourself that drink.  This gets complicated.

Another view holds that it was named for, or even invented by, “Bald Jack” Rose, a [m1] Gotham gangster who copped to orchestrating the 1912 assassination of gambling boss Herman “Beansy” Rosenthal.  The gunmen were “Lefty Louie” Rosenberg, “Whitey Lewis,” “Dago Frank” Cirofici, and “Gyp the Blood” Horowitz.  Jack Rose was granted immunity as part of the prosecution (some would say framing) of allegedly-crooked NYPD vice detective Charles Becker, who reputedly ordered Jack Rose to make the hit. “Becker told me,” Rose testified, “that he wanted Rosenthal murdered, shot, croaked or dynamited.  …  I gave myself up and became a State’s witness because Becker deserted me like a dirty dog and was getting ready to throw me to the wolves.”   Based in part on Rose’s testimony, Becker took a trip to the Sing Sing electric chair on July 30, 1915.  It was a one-way ticket.  


Yet another story has the drink being named for a flower, the General Jacqueminot Rose, which would likely smell as sweet by any other name.  It was named for one of Napoleon’s generals, Jean-Francois Jacqueminot, who led the 1827 Expedition of Rambouillet, resulting in the abdication of French King Charles X. 

Rambouillet, by the way, was the site of another expedition, in 1944, led by a war correspondent name of Ernest Hemingway.  Assigned to an Office of Strategic Services (OSS, predecessor to the CIA) unit with Patton’s Third Army, Hemingway allegedly couldn’t resist the temptation of getting into the action as Allied forces pushed towardParis.  Reports claimed that Hemingway was leading his own private army of French partisans in live combat.  Charges were brought for violating the Geneva Convention’s rules governing non-combatants, but Hemingway was later cleared by the Army’s Inspector General.  But I digress….

The Jack Rose makes two appearances in Hemingway’s 1926 novel, The Sun Also Rises, one of the quintessential books of The Lost Generation.  The story surrounds the dissipated lives of a group of friends in Paris.  Much of the action takes place in Pamplona, Spain, at the Fiesta of San Fermin, famous for its “Running of the Bulls,” bull fights, and its general carnival-like atmosphere.  The Hemingway protagonist is Jake Barnes, an American journalist who was wounded in World War I.  Jake is in love with Lady Brett Ashley who, at varying times, loves Jake.  Chapter VI begins with Jake waiting in vain for Brett at the Hotel Crillon in Paris, where they’d agreed to meet.  She stands him up, typifying the frustrated love Jake has for Brett throughout the novel.  You see, Jake’s war wound prevents him from, how shall I say, consummating his love for Brett.  Yep, a pretty nasty wound. 

It’s during his wait that he orders a Jack Rose:

“At five o’clock I was in the Hotel Crillon, waiting for Brett.  She was not there, so I sat down and wrote some letters.  They were not very good letters but I hoped their being on Crillon stationery would help them.  Brett did not turn up, so about quarter to six I went down to the bar and had a Jack Rose with George the barman.

George the barman apparently was known for his Jack Rose, as it makes a return appearance in Chapter VIII.  It seems ol’ George has mixed more than a few for Jake’s friend Bill Gorton prior to Bill dropping by Jake’s flat.  As they walk the streets ofParistogether, it becomes obvious to Jake that Bill is “pie-eyed:”

“Certainly like to drink,” Bill said. “You ought to try it some times, Jake.

“You’re about a hundred and forty-four ahead of me.” 

“Ought not to daunt you. Never be daunted. Secret of my success. Never been daunted. Never been daunted in public.” 

“Where were you drinking?”

“Stopped at the Crillon. George made me a couple of Jack Roses. George’s a great man. Know the secret of his success? Never been daunted.”               

It’s likely Hemingway had a few pie-eyed moments himself at the Crillon, being no stranger to the bar; “When I had money I went to the Crillon,” he noted in his memoir, A Moveable Feast.  Also, in the posthumously-published novel The Garden of Eden, David Bourne met his wife Catherine in the Crillon bar.

Pamplona is no place to bring your wife. The odds are all in favor of her getting ill, hurt or wounded or at least jostled and wine squirted all over her, or of losing her; maybe all three.   If anybody could do Pamplona successfully it would be Carmen and Antonio but Antonio would not bring her.  It’s a man’s fiesta and women at it make trouble, never intentionally of course, but they nearly always make or have trouble. I wrote a book on this once. Of course if she can talk Spanish so she knows she is being joked with and not insulted, if she can drink wine all day and all night and dance with any group of strangers who invite her, if she does not mind things being spilled on her, if she adores continual noise and music and loves fireworks, especially those that fall close to her or burn her clothes, if she thinks it is sound and logical to see how close you can come to being killed by bulls for fun and for free, if she doesn’t catch cold when she is rained on and appreciates dust, likes disorder and irregular meals and never needs to sleep and still keeps clean and neat without running water; then bring her. You’ll probably lose her to a better man than you.”  The Dangerous Summer, Ernest Hemingway

            The first recipe shown above is the commonly accepted, conventional recipe for the Jack Rose.  However, submitted for your approval is a quite different recipe.  In 1922, there was published in Paris a classic cocktail book titled Barflies and Cocktails, written by Harry MacElhone and Wynn Holcomb, with contributions from Harry Moss.  MacElhone was the owner/bartender at Harry’s New York Bar, in Paris, and Holcomb was a noted caricaturist and society reporter for the Paris edition of the New York Herald.  Arthur Moss’ job was apparently to scare up interesting recipes from the bar’s regulars.  All three were members of a facetious organization called the International Bar Flies, or I.B.F.

            At any rate, within these hallowed pages is found a rather different Jack Rose recipe.  As so many of these drinks have multiple variations, my tendency has been to go with the one that I felt was most likely to be what Hemingway might have known.  Well, dear reader, here you have a recipe published around the same time (Barflies was published in 1922, my edition 1927) that Hemingway wrote and published The Sun Also Rises (1926).  Further, Hemingway happened to live in the same town (Paris) where the inimitable Mr. MacElhone tended bar, at a saloon that Hemingway was known to frequent.  So, does it not make sense that Hemingway, and Jake Barnes, might have been drinking this version of the Jack Rose?  Pardon me, I’m an attorney by training, I can’t help the leading questions.  But I happen to think that this is Jake Barnes’ Jack Rose. 

            Having grown quite fond of the traditional Jack Rose recipe, I didn’t want to like this drink.  But I made it, you know, out of a pure sense of reportorial responsibility.  I just wasn’t sure that the additions of gin, sweet and dry vermouth, not to mention orange juice, would work together.  And let’s face it, the odd collection of ingredients brings to mind a bad B movie, you know, “Jack Rose Meets the Bronx Cocktail.”  

I was wrong, I love this drink.  The vermouth offers an aromatic quality that reminds me of the El Presidente, that famous cocktail of Cuba.  The gin gives it some more backbone and dryness, and the orange juice balances out the tartness.  The trick is to be judicious in the amount of grenadine – don’t want it too sweet.  So, dear reader, I offer this second version of the Jack Rose to you, and submit to you that perhaps it was this drink that Jake was drinking while waiting for Brett. 


Photo from Pamplona café in 1925 showing Hemingway, Harold Loeb (Robert Cohn in the novel), Lady Duff Twysden, and Hadley

 ImagePortrait of Lady Duff Twysden, caption could read “Lady Duff Twysden, the [m6] real-life Lady Brett Ashley”

            When published in 1926, The Sun Also Rises caused a bit of a stir among the Montparnasse expatriate crowd, as many of the novel’s characters were based on real people.  So who was this Lady Brett Ashley, for whom Jake carried such a torch?  It was none other than Lady Duff Twysden, described by Hemingway’s wife Hadley as being “a wonderfully attractive Englishwoman, a woman of the world with no sexual inhibitions.”  As described in the novel itself, “Brett was damned good looking.  She wore a slipover jersey sweater and a tweed skirt, and her hair was brushed back like a boy’s.  She started all that.  She was built with curves like the hull of a racing yacht, and you missed none of it with the wool jersey.”

Though Hemingway was somewhat smitten with her, it’s not believed they ever had an affair.  However, during the 1925 Pamplona Fiesta, when he learned that Duff had recently spent a romantic holiday with writer Harold Loeb, Hemingway fumed.  His jealousy and frustration simmer through the pages of the novel, during which Brett has affairs with Robert Cohn (based on Harold Loeb), Mike Campbell, and a bullfighter named Pedro Romero, all while being in love with Jake.  At the end of the novel, Brett sighs, “Oh, Jake, we could have had such a damned good time together,” to which Jake replies, “Yes.  Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

So, if your gal ever stands you up, or runs off with a toreador, fix yourself a Jack Rose, and don’t ever be daunted, not in public, anyway.

About philgreene61

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