Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman


Earlier this summer, I met a friend out in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. (Could a novelist invent a more unlikely name for a town?) It’s semi-rural and on the edge of rural, a quaint town with an actual falls, a candy shop, and Jeni’s Ice Cream. Head out of town, south, and you’re quickly passing farmland. This is where my friend wanted to take me. Just over the edge into the next county, Geauga, off the road a bit, so removed we passed the drive and had to circle back, is a house, a small distillery, and a barn filled with barrels. The distillery is called Tom’s Foolery, started by Tom Herbruck, who, with his wife, Lianne, and their kids, make some exquisite applejack, America’s first commercial spirit, and likely the common drink in the new colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries.

What I love most is that Tom is doing this because he has to or, rather, he can’t stop himself. And he’s so eager to talk and write about it, he’s deserving of a broader post. For now, though, in summer, with the Fourth of July past us, and feeling an acute need for America to be great once again (if the Founding Fathers were to wake up in Washington, DC, today, I think they’d never stop throwing up), I’m going to do a couple more cocktails with applejack, a brandy with a distinct sweetness, made from apple cider that has been fermented, distilled, and barrel aged. Thank you, Tom and Lianne, for making this fine nectar.

This is my kind of patriotic spirit.


Applejack Sour

  • 2 ounces applejack
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 1 egg white
  • Lemon wheel, for garnish
  • Lime wheel, for garnish
  1. Blend or dry-shake all ingredients—I buzz mine in the shaker with a hand blender.
  2. Add ice to the shaker, swirl for 60-90 seconds to chill, and strain it over ice in a rocks glass, garnishing it with lemon and lime.

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


17 Wonderful responses to “Friday Cocktail Hour: Applejack Sour”

  • Angel Reyes

    I’m looking forward to giving this a try. I ride my bike to Chagrin Falls often. Maybe instead of ice cream and coffee, I should stop for a drink!

  • Allen

    Much to my chargrin, I’ve only had Lairds apple jack. But I’m ok with just plain ole brandy.

    I made a nice basil simple syrup last weekend, that married up nicely with citrus and gin- which brings to mind a nice Sidecar with brandy, or apple jack.

    Cheers, happy Friday all!

    • Drago

      Laird’s makes a few products. Their “applejack” is more akin to blended whiskey and has a lot of neutral spirit. Look for their “old apple brandy” for a purely apple-based product.

      But Tom’s Foolery is the real deal and runs circles around the Laird’s products.

  • jlk25

    Tom’s Foolery Applejack is so great – so happy to see it highlighted here. I look forward to their annual release and scoring a few bottles before they sell out. I can’t wait for the release of their new products and for trying your sour recipe!

  • Tags

    I’m sure any chagrin you may be harboring will fall after one or two of these beauties.

  • Wcw

    Chagrin Falls is unforgettable, as home of Bill Watterson of Calvin and Hobbes and of never-forgotten nihilist balladeer Buddy Holocaust, both.

    RIP, Bill Tate.

  • BJ

    So is Apple Jack, similar to Calvados? as a liqueur, brandy, or spirit?
    I often heard of bartenders using the two interchangeably.

    • Allen

      This article gives a good description of the process of making applejack:

      I have a plethora of apples on my tree this year, may give it a go if I can find some oak barrels.
      I did not know of the process of jacking the apples, so simple if you live in a colder climate.

    • Drago

      Calvados is to apple brandy as cognac is to grape brandy…a protected name based upon an area. (DOC)

  • Gerard

    Wow that was odd. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked
    submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr…
    well I’m not writing all that over again. Regardless,
    just wanted to say great blog!

  • Tom Herbruck

    The Applejack Sour is one of my favorites, especially as a late summertime treat. Last night, Lianne and I tried Michael’s version of the sour. It was delicious and perfect for the occasion … sitting on our back porch on a warm Saturday evening! Tom

  • Darcie

    Time to turn up the anti-spam filter a notch…

    Also, I am a big fan of applejack. Next time we visit our friends in NE Ohio I’ll make sure to find this place.

  • Simon Hedin

    Love hearing about creative people who have made their passion a full time job. I’ll look forward to hear more about Tom and his brewery!

  • Chad

    I made a couple of these swapping out simple syrup for high quality (grade B) maple syrup. It’s quite nice.


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