Arkansas Black

Our Story

Our recipe pays homage to Arthur "Skipper" Ford, who made cider and farmhouse applejack from the exceptional heirloom apples that he grew at his ranch on Howell Mountain (Napa County). As a manager for the Dole Fruit Company, Skipper had access to heirloom varieties of fruit, many of which he cultivated on the ranch. The Arkansas Black Apple, with its tart flavor, was a family favorite. Sadly, Skipper and the Timberlane Ranch are long gone.

After years of hearing the legends of Skipper and his Applejack, John convinced his wife (and greatgranddaughter of Skipper), Samantha, to take a stab at recreating this classic spirit. We hope that you enjoy it as much as we do.

Our applejack

Arkansas Black Straight Applejack contains 100% apples, around 25 pounds per bottle. It is never blended with grain spirits. The apple “mash bill” varies from year to year, depending on what types of apples are available at harvest. Typically it includes a mix of several varieties of sweet, crisp, and cider apples. The apples are inspected, washed and crushed, then fermented and distilled with the must to preserve the fresh apple flavors. The spirit is then rested at just over 100 proof in a blend of French Limousin and American Bourbon barrels.

The finished product is a selected blend of barrels of different type and age, with each component of the blend chosen for its particular characteristics. The honey-freshness and assertiveness of the younger spirit complements the mellow, vanilla tones of more well-rested brandy. It is never cold-stabilized, and proof adjustments are made with fresh apple distillate. Try it on the rocks, in one of the delicious cocktails on this site, or in any cocktail that calls for brandy, rye or bourbon whiskey.

THE skipper

The Skipper was my Great Grandfather, and probably one of the coolest, least appropriate, most exciting men that ever lived. He was an amazing sailor, a great domino player, a ladies man and a grower of heirloom apples.

Truth be told, the Skipper was mostly a Gin drinker. He even sang songs about Gin and was known to cross regatta finish lines with a martini in hand. (if you read his ships log, almost every day starts with “woke up, made gin fizzes”). But, due to his abundance of beautiful apples, and his fascination with adult beverages generally, he learned the fine art of cider and applejack production at his ranch on Howell Mountain.

Skipper passed away several years before I was born, but like many well loved people, his legend lives on in his stories, his apple orchard, and his sailboat, Yankee, which we continue to race to this day.

made with 100% apples

A sailor, a revived family recipe, and an apple that bites back: Arkansas Black

Amazing recipes

Please enjoy these excellent cocktail recipes, two are classics, and two are modern recipes developed by two highly talented bartenders from our hometown, san francisco.
Arkansas black straight applejack is terrific over ice, or substituted for brandy, bourbon or rye whiskey in any cocktail.
Jack Rose

Jack rose

William Boothby, The World’s Drinks and How to Mix Them, 1908
  • 2 oz. Arkansas Black Straight Applejack
  • .75 oz. fresh grenadine (or a high quality store bought)
  • .75 oz. fresh lemon juice (substitute lime)

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled coupe, garnish with an apple slice (of course!)

Radio Flyer

Radio flyer

Caitlan Laman (Trick Dog, San Francisco)
  • 2 ounces Arkansas Black Straight Applejack
  • 1 ounce Gutierrez Colosia Sangre y Trabajadero Oloroso sherry
  • .5 ounce Rich simple syrup*
  • 1 whole egg
  • Grated nutmeg for garnish

Shake liquid ingredients thoroughly with ice and strain into a double Old-Fashioned glass. Grate nutmeg over the top.

*Rich simple syrup: Add twice the volume of sugar to water. Either heat the two or simply shake hard to dissolve sugar, and store in refrigerator between uses.

Wooden Nickel

Wooden Nickel

Claire Sprouse (Tin Roof Drink Community ABV, San Francisco)
  • 1oz Arkansas Black Straight Applejack
  • 1oz Amontillado Sherry
  • 1oz Gran Classico

Build over a large rock and stir to chill. Garnish with an orange twist.

Applejack Manhattan

Applejack Manhattan

PDT adapted
  • 2 oz. Arkansas Black Straight Applejack
  • 1 oz. Sweet Vermouth
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with three brandied cherries on a pick