By Tara Nurin
;; 1780, ;;;;;;;;-turned-Jerseyan
William Laird established America’s first
distillery. His Applejack, an aged apple
brandy, was sometimes consumed in
unaged form dubbed Jersey Lightning.
In 2014, the Laird family, of Scobeyville,
sensing a heritage spirits revival, released
an o;cial unaged Jersey Lightning.
In fact, not just Applejack “but a lot of
di;erent brandies are making a comeback,” says Natalie Jacob, beverage
consultant at The Archer, a hip Jersey
City bar. She recently created the Born
to Run (three guesses who that’s named
for), using Applejack, aquavit, Framboise,
creme de cacao and lime juice.
Brandy is distilled from many fruits,
famously grapes (French Cognac and Armagnac, Peruvian Pisco). Bartenders are
reviving classic brandy-based cocktails
like the Jack Rose and the Vieux Carré.
“Whether it’s pear brandy in the fall or
peach eau de vie in the summer, they work
all the time when you pair them with the
right ingredients,” Jacob says.
American brandy, once ubiquitous,
is beginning to revive on the “really, really high end,” says Morristown cocktail
author Warren Bobrow, citing Millard
Fillmore, a grape brandy from California’s
Craft Distillers, and pear, peach and apple
brandies from Catoctin Creek Distillery in
Virginia (all available in NJ).
Unionville Vineyards in Ringoes
“Some are light and aromatic,” he says,
donated vats of pinot noir and pinot grigio
to Camden’s Cooper River Distillers. “I
took 700 gallons of wine,” says Cooper
River owner James Yoakum, “and turned
it into 100 gallons of brandy by blending
distillate we put into barrels.”
How to begin? William Gozdziewski,
bar manager at Mistral in Princeton,
stocks many brandies and cognacs.
“some are dark and robust, some are in
between. It involves a lot of tasting.”
libations the Chonut ;.; (the menu aptly calls it “;;;% ridiculousness”). It has evolved
since version ;.;, but is still served on
a glazed doughnut, sometimes with
sprinkles. Inside are piled smoked
brisket, bacon, cheddar, smoked kimchi, Fatboy BCS and scallions. It has
brought Cho awards and TV appearances, and earned at least one fan in my
party: “Here is everything I like, in one
pile,” said my husband. It is available
only on Fridays and Saturdays.
For all his bumper-car proclivities,
“I’m very big on my food not being
called fusion,” Cho says. “As a Korean-
American, I am ;;; percent Korean and
;;; percent American. Eating my food,
people realize it is American-style bar-
becue, which is defined by slow smok-
ing, as opposed to grilling. The menu
has elements of Korean cuisine, such as
kimchi, but it is not fusion cooking.”
His menu supports this thesis. Kim-
chi Smoke o;ers better-than-usual
versions of roadhouse standards, such
as mac and cheese, thickly sprinkled
with cumin-fragrant dry rub for a
crisp surface after baking. Cornbread
is dense yet moist, with a toothsome
graininess. On Saturdays, there are half
and full racks of baby-back ribs and
pork spare ribs.
On the other side of the ledger,
kimchi is ubiquitous. Cho arrived in
America with his parents when he
was four. They brought kimchi with
them everywhere they went. “I was a
little embarrassed by it,” he admits.
Nonetheless, in his solidly American-looking eatery, with its large map of the
U. S.A., Cho o;ers two kinds of kimchi:
traditional pickled cabbage and one
that is also smoked in pans for two or
three hours. The smoked kimchi is aged
longer, becoming more pungent even
as the smokiness intensifies the slaw’s
sweet and spicy flavors.
Even vegetarians have good reason
to cross Cho’s threshold. His rice bowls
and soft flour tortillas are surprisingly
satisfying without meat. Elevated to
starring roles, the sauces and sides
reveal more of their subtle flavors: the
nutty flavor of sesame oil in the Asian
slaw and the slow burn of the pungent
As the move to larger quarters a;rms,
Cho is not just a pitmaster; he’s a chef.
Voted Best Irish Bar
98 Kingsland Rd. • Rt. 3 E.
1200 Rt. 17 North at Franklin Tpk.