Applejack is a strong apple-flavored alcoholic beverage produced from apples, popular in the American colonial period. The name derives from "jacking", a term for "increasing" (alcohol content) and specifically for "freeze distilling", the traditional method of producing the drink.
In colonial New Jersey, applejack was used as currency to pay road construction crews during the colonial period, leading to the slang name 'Jersey Lightning'. The oldest licensed applejack distillery in the United States, Laird & Company of Scobeyville, New Jersey, was until recently the country's only remaining producer of applejack.
Because freeze distillation is a low-infrastructure method of production compared to evaporative distillation, and doesn't, for example, require burning firewood to create heat, hard cider and applejack were historically easy to produce, though more expensive than grain alcohol, and hence were important drinks in the colonial era and the early years of the United States, particularly in cold northern areas without access to clean water.
Applejack was historically made by concentrating cider through the traditional method of freeze distillation: The alcoholic fruit beer produced after the fall harvest was left outside during the winter. Periodically the frozen chunks of ice which had formed were removed, thus concentrating the unfrozen alcohol in the remaining liquid. Starting with the fermented juice, with an alcohol content of less than ten percent, the concentrated result can contain 25-40% alcohol.
When commercial production began, applejack was also starting to be produced through evaporative distillation. Modern commercially produced applejack is no longer produced by jacking but rather by blending apple brandy and neutral spirits.
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