The Calvados Cocktail Experiment

Père Magloire Fine Calvados
Père Magloire Fine Calvados

I purchased my first ever bottle of Calvados, which is a brandy from Normandy, made from apples.

Apple orchards and brewers are mentioned as far back as the 8th century by Charlemagne. The first known Norman distillation was carried out by “Lord” de Gouberville in 1554, and the guild for cider distillation was created about 50 years later in 1606. In the 17th century the traditional ciderfarms expanded but taxation and prohibition of cider brandies were enforced elsewhere than Brittany, Maine and Normandy. The area called “Calvados” was created after the French Revolution, but “eau de vie de cidre” was already called “calvados” in common usage. In the 19th century output increased with industrial distillation and the working class fashion for “Café-calva”. When a phylloxera outbreak in the last quarter of the 19th century devastated the vineyards of France and Europe, calvados experienced a “golden age”. During World War I cider brandy was requisitioned for use in armaments due to its alcohol content.

The appellation contrôlée regulations officially gave calvados a protected name in 1942. After the war many cider-houses and distilleries were reconstructed, mainly in the Pays d’Auge. Many of the traditional farmhouse structures were replaced by modern agriculture with high output. The Calvados appellation system was revised in 1984 and 1996. Pommeau got its recognition in 1991; in 1997 an appellation for Domfront with 30% pears was created.

Calvados is distilled from cider made from specially grown and selected apples, of which there are over 200 named varieties. It is not uncommon for a Calvados producer to use over 100 specific varieties of apples, which are either sweet (such as the Rouge Duret variety), tart (such as the Rambault variety), or bitter (such as the Mettais, Saint Martin, Frequin, and Binet Rouge varieties), the latter being inedible.
The fruit is harvested (either by hand or mechanically) and pressed into a juice that is fermented into a dry cider. It is then distilled into eau de vie. After two years aging in oak casks, it can be sold as Calvados.

(click here to continue reading Calvados (brandy) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

Calvados by itself as a digestive could be ok, but in all honesty, there are not many times when I eat a big enough dinner that I need a digestive afterwords. Plus, I enjoy exploring the science of mixology.

The Calvados Cocktail
The Calvados Cocktail

Thus I’ve been exploring cocktails made with Calvados, including this one in Ted Haight’s book, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. The recipe, as pictured above:

  • 1.5 oz Calvados
  • 1 half of an orange, squeezed vigorously
  • ½ oz Orange Curaçao (I used Cointreau)
  • ½ oz orange bitters (a very large amount, but I happened to have a bottle of blood orange bitters that needed using. You could dial this back a bit, if you are not a fan of orange bitters)

Add ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice, give it a hearty shake, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

I also tried a Honeymoon Cocktail (almost pictured). I made it like this:

  • 2 oz Calvados
  • ½ oz Benedictine
  • ½ oz Cointreau
  • 1 half of a lemon, squeezed until the juice comes down your leg

Again, goes without saying you pour these ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice, give it a hearty shake, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Bears further study – especially since I still have most of a bottle of Calvados in my bar…

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