America’s Oldest Distiller Is in NJ and They Just Released 2 New Products

by Peter Candia
Laird & Company

America’s oldest distillers are right here in New Jersey. They don’t make bourbon or gin—not vodka or rum—but instead, a spirit known by fans as Applejack. Laird & Company has been making their signature apple brandy since 1698 when founder William Laird emigrated across the pond to New Jersey. 

He began distilling his signature spirit—a strong brandy derived from locally produced apples—to share with family and friends. By 1717, popularity grew and Laird established the original Laird & Company distillery in what is now known as Colts Neck, NJ. The distillery was located behind an inn and mainly served as a tavern for people traveling through the area. Around the 1760s, George Washington even wrote to Laird & Company asking for the recipe for their Applejack. Eventually, brandy was provided to Washington and his soldiers during the Revolutionary War. 


A cocktail mixed with Laird’s Applejack

This brief snapshot of Laird’s history is relevant. It outlines the longevity of a company that serves such historical importance to New Jersey and the US as a whole. Applejack remains a niche spirit today—never garnering the same popularity as grain whiskies and vodkas—but to bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts, Applejack is a beloved spirit and ingredient. 

Bartenders all over the world utilize Applejack as a base spirit for cocktails. At Three-Michelin-Star Eleven Madison Park, Applejack is celebrated across the cocktail list, even being served for a time as an after-dinner digestif to celebrate the region. 

However, Applejack’s innate qualities are perhaps best displayed in the Jack Rose—an Applejack-based cocktail that originated around the turn of the 20th century. The Jack Rose combines Laird’s Applejack with homemade grenadine syrup and fresh-squeezed lemon juice. The shaken sour is tart with plenty of body to back it up. The Jack Rose is even mentioned in Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel, “The Sun Also Rises.” 

Laird & Company is a lot below the surface than one might expect, and though the company is wholeheartedly committed to celebrating its historical value, it has proven under current leadership that it can simultaneously innovate in the current times. 

Laird & Company Announces Two New Products

Laird & Company applejack

Laird & Company VPO Gerard Dunn and CEO Lisa Laird-Dunn cheers to two new products

Vice President of Operations Gerard Dunn—along with CEO Lisa Laird-Dunn—have unveiled two new ready-to-drink canned cocktails that utilize, you guessed it, Applejack as the base spirit. 

Canned cocktails are nothing new—having risen to popularity over the last five years—but, the trend is not going anywhere. In 2021, pre-mixed cocktails were the fastest-growing spirits category, according to CNBC

This isn’t the first time Laird & Company has adapted alongside trends. In 1972, Laird’s created their Blended Applejack in an attempt to meet consumer demands for lighter and less alcoholic spirits. The new product cut the proof from 100 down to 80. The campaign was a success as Laird’s Blended Applejack is still on the market today. 

This new generation of Laird’s looks to combine their tried-and-true product with current drinking trends. Applejack is an age-old recipe, but with some tweaks, it is easily brought into the present times. Laird & Company will soon release the American Mule and Lisa’s Lemonade to celebrate history and pave a way for the future. 

American Mule

Laird's Applejack

Laird & Company’s American Mule

Laird’s brand new American Mule is just that, a mule. The popular cocktail style combines a base spirit with ginger beer and usually lime to finish. Laird’s offering is no different, but rather than the usual vodka (Moscow Mule) or bourbon (Kentucky Mule), the obvious base spirit is employed: Applejack. 

In one, ready-to-drink format, Applejack and ginger liqueur are combined to create a smooth-drinking cocktail with a subtle ginger flavor. The spice of the ginger perfectly balances the body of the brandy. It’s great straight from the can or poured over ice with a healthy squeeze of lime to top it off. Whether you’re sipping it poolside in the summertime or around a bonfire in the dead of winter, Laird & Company’s American Mule is a welcome addition to the canned cocktail market. 

Lisa’s Lemonade

Lairds Applejack

Lisa’s Lemonade from Laird & Company

Lisa’s Lemonade is named after CEO and 9th generation of the Laird family, Lisa Laird-Dunn. The canned cocktail utilizes a split base of Laird’s Applejack along with vodka, which is then combined with crisp lemonade. This is the NJ drink of the summer, we’re declaring it now.

Cool, refreshing and easy, Lisa’s Lemonade is ready in seconds to drink straight from the can. Like your drinks cold? Pour it over ice, maybe even add a splash of iced tea if you’re feeling bold. This ready-to-drink cocktail is bright and balanced, with the rich body of Applejack adding a complexity that lacks in other hard lemonades on the market. 

History Lives Through Laird & Company

Laird & Company is a distillery that embraces their historical value to New Jersey and the nation as a whole. Whether it’s distilling brandy for America’s earliest militaries or adapting with consumer trends to bring lesser-proof spirits to market, Laird’s has always been devoted to the highest quality products that adapt with the times. Their recent foray into the canned cocktail market is no different. 

In a world where canned cocktails are increasingly the norm, a company like Laird’s still manages to stick out by keeping their products conceptually on line with the company’s vision. Lisa’s Lemonade and the American Mule are welcome additions to the ready-to-drink cocktail market. 

About the Author/s

All posts

Peter Candia is the Food + Drink Editor at New Jersey Digest. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Peter found a passion for writing midway through school and never looked back. He is a former line cook, server and bartender at top-rated restaurants in the tri-state area. In addition to food, Peter enjoys politics, music, sports and anything New Jersey.

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