Smoky Jersey AppleJack Burgers with Sweet Onion Topping

Pairs well with:


Get cozy and get pouring. Our Merlot is the wine for long weekends and lengthy chats.

Laird & Company in Scobeyville, New Jersey, was the first commercial distillery in the United States, holding License #1.Since the late 1600s, eight generations of the Laird family have produced AppleJack using the same recipe. To celebrate this heritage of my home state, I’ve used Laird’s AppleJack in both the burgers and the carmamelized onion topping. Its unique flavor really complements this beefy, smoky burger.


3 tablespoons Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons Laird’s AppleJack, divided use
2 pounds ground chuck
1 large tart apple, peeled, cored and grated (about 1 cup), divided use
2 tablespoons Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil for brushing the grill rack
6 poppy seed-topped sandwich bun
2 cups pre-washed, bagged watercress or baby arugula


Preheat gas grill to medium high or prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill.

To make the onion topping, heat a 10 inch nonstick, fire-proof skillet on the grill for about 2 minutes. Add olive oil and warm for 1 minute; add onions and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the grill, add brown sugar and 2 tablespoons AppleJack; stir to combine. Replace the pan on the grill, close the cover and cook mixture for 10-15 minutes, opening and stirring occasionallly, until onions are caramelized and liquids have evaporated. Remove the pan from the grill and set aside.

To make the patties, put the beef, 3/4 cup grated apple (reserve the rest), chipotle pepper sauce, and salt into a large bowl. Handling the meat as little as possible, mix well and form into 6 patties that fit the size of the buns. Cover with plastic and set aside.

To make the sauce, whisk together the ketcup, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl. Stir in the reserved grated apple (about 1/4 cup). Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

When the grill is ready, brush the rack with vegetable oil. Place the patties on the grill and cook, turning once, for 4-5 minutes per side. Remove the patties to a platter, brush both sides with AppleJack, and return to the grill for 1-2 additonal minutes. Place the buns, cut side down, on the outer edges of the grill to toast for about 1 minute.

To assemble the burgers, distribute the watercress evenly over the bottom half of each bun, followed by a pattie, and an equal distribution of sauce and onion topping. Add a bun top to each burger and serve.