The Sonora Cocktail

With a name like “Sonora,” you might think this one would have tequila in it, an ingredient that pops up extraordinarily rarely in vintage cocktail guides. Well, you would be wrong. Applejack is one of the key ingredients here, along with rum. No tequila at all.

Sonora is, in addition to a state in Mexico, a small town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, about halfway between Stockton and Yosemite National Park. It took its name from Mexican prospectors who had come up from (where else?) Sonora. But plenty of American 49ers took up residence too, and no doubt at least some of them had experience distilling applejack, a common spirit throughout the more settled parts of the US in the 18th and 19th centuries. And, climatologically, the Sierra foothills are good apple-growing country, so it may not have taken long for a few prospectors to start growing apples and whipping out a few batches of applejack. So perhaps the name comes from that Sonora?

No. Very, very unlikely. A) prospectors wouldn’t have bothered to mix rum with their applejack. B) Any sort of cocktail from the mid-19th century would have been little more than a spirit with a touch of sugar and bitters. It was probably created by a 1920s bartender somewhere, who wanted to give it a somewhat exotic-sounding name in hope of selling a few of the things, because, to be frank, these weren’t going to find many adherents on the strength of their taste.

The Recipe:

1 dash lemon juice

2 dashes apricot brandy

1/2 applejack (or Calvados)

1/2 white rum

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.


It’s not good. It tastes a little like cheap light beer, minus the fizz. There’s not really enough of either the juice or the brandy to add much, and the applejack and rum just don’t get along. It would probably be better with a high-end Calvados than with the Laird’s I used, but not likely enough better to bother making it again. Two livers.


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