The Colt’s Neck: An Apple Brandy Cocktail

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We’re lucky to live just a few miles from the Colts Neck, NJ home of Laird’s apple brandy. That and an open bottle of Cardamaro vino amaro (which has a looooong neck) spurred the creation of The Colt’s Neck, a highball apple brandy cocktail with ginger beer, cardamaro, and fresh lemon juice. Find all our cocktails, from classic to craft, here.

an amber-colored cocktail in a highball glass on a brown background

Why we love this recipe

We don’t always gravitate to highball cocktails (though a stiff gin and tonic is an OG favorite). But when a highball has this much going on, it’s hard not to give it a second look. The backbone of the Colt’s Neck is strong but smooth apple brandy (we use Laird’s Old Apple Brandy). Cardamaro adds all manner of subtle goodness, from sweetness to pleasant bitterness to a gentle vegetal quality. Fresh lemon juice takes the edge off the sweetness. And ginger beer speaks assertively for itself.

Ingredients for this apple brandy cocktail

To make a Colt’s Neck, you’ll need:

  • Apple brandy. We use Laird’s Old Apple Brandy, but you could use Applejack or any other good apple brandy that you like.
  • Cardamaro vino amaro
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Ginger beer
  • A lemon twist to garnish
making a cocktail in a highball glass by pouring in apple brandy, cardamaro, lemon juice, and ginger beer

How to make a Colt’s Neck cocktail

As with all highballs, making a Colt’s Neck is straightforward. You don’t even need a separate mixing glass to make this apple brandy cocktail. Here’s what you’ll do. You can see all the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post.

  • Fill a highball glass with ice
  • Pour in apple brandy, cardamaro, and lemon juice
  • Give it a gentle stir
  • Top with ginger beer
  • Garnish with a lemon twist and serve

Laird’s Apple Brandy and Applejack

Applejack was hugely popular in colonial America, long before even rye and bourbon came on the scene. Laird & Company has been making applejack (practically right in our backyard) since 1698. I just love that. Gonna take a moment.

Moving right along.

What is Applejack?

There’s a reason you might not be exactly sure how to define applejack, and it’s because things have changed a bit over time. Historically, applejack was 100 percent apple brandy. And legally that’s still the case. But now some versions are blended products. Those are sold under the name blended applejack.

Laird & Company sells both Straight Applejack, an 86 proof 100% apple brandy that’s made in the old tradition, and blended Applejack, an 80 proof product that’s 35% apple brandy and 65% neutral spirits.

You’ll find lots of other brands, too, of various proofs and descriptions.

What is Cardamaro?

Cardamaro is an Italian vino amaro — a wine-based amaro. It has a relatively low alcohol content at 17% ABV and is great to sip on its own or as a cocktail ingredient. Cardamaro is made from cardoon and blessed thistle, which are relatives of the artichoke, and it’s often called a gentler cousin of Cynar.

Learn more — including how to use up that bottle — in our post about The Corduroy.

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The Colt's Neck Cocktail

The Colt's Neck is a highball cocktail made from apple brandy, Cardamaro vino amaro, fresh lemon juice, and ginger beer. It's light enough to be refreshing, but it also has a lot going on.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Serves 1


  • 2 ounces Laird's apple brandy
  • 2 ounces Cardamaro
  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 ounces ginger beer
  • Lemon peel to garnish


  1. Fill a highball glass with ice.
  2. Pour in apple brandy, Cardamaro, and lemon juice.
  3. Give it a gentle stir with a bar spoon.
  4. Top with the ginger beer.
  5. Garnish with the lemon and serve.

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Nutrition Information

Amount Per Serving:

Calories:: 200

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