Thursday, May 17, 2012

Did Philip Greene Just Uncover the Real Jack Rose?

Philip Greene of the Museum of the American Cocktail (MOTAC) makes the case for the real Jack Rose cocktail. According to Greene:
"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 [...]
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."
Fascinating stuff.

Varying interpretations of this cocktail is nothing new to me. I've put together a tasty Jack Rose using Last Exit's house-made grenadine. It was absolutely delicious. 

America Eats Tavern features one that is truer to the conventional recipe and seems to use grenadine that is more widely available. But Greene has uncovered something very different. 

Jack Rose - Harry MacElhone’s 1920s Paris recipe:

- 1 1/2 oz Applejack or Calvados
- 3/4 oz dry gin
- 3/4 oz fresh orange juice
- 3/4 oz fresh lemon or lime juice
- 1/3 oz French vermouth
- 1/3 oz Italian vermouth
- 1/3 oz grenadine

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

After giving this version a try, I found that it expresses a little more complex citrus flavor compared to the more mainstream Jack Rose recipe. Some of the other notes that dance on the tongue come from the gin and vermouth. There's a lot to work with here.

Is it better than the Jack Rose cocktail I made with house-made grenadine? I'm not so sure. It is, however, quite delicious compared to the interpretation I experienced at America Eats Tavern. Others may disagree.

Either way, Greene tells an amazing story that had me reaching for my old copy of The Sun Also Rises from college. And just like in college, I was left asking myself again, "what is this cocktail called the Jack Rose?"

Note: This post has been revised since its original publication

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