The first cocktail I made when I received the Death & Co cocktail book used muddled apple, an ingredient that evokes fall. Taking the inspiration further, fall also puts me in the mood for calvados, the French apple brandy from Normandy. In France it is not uncommon to have a “trou normand“, a small glass of calvados that is enjoyed in the middle of a long leisurely meal, supposedly to help with digestion…
Years ago, when I first got into cocktails and was finding a lot of cocktail recipes calling for applejack or apple brandy, it did not occur to me to use calvados as a substitute (in France it is not mixed, it is always enjoyed neat). I went out of my way to track down bonded straight apple brandy, hoping to find what the big deal was about. I took me a while, and when I finally managed to find a bottle of Laird’s, I was very disappointed to realize that I actually liked calvados better.
Good calvados has a lot of depth and subtlety, and a beautiful apple flavor (which is fantastic in ice cream). There are probably some outstanding American apple brandies out there, but based on what I’ve been able to find so far, calvados (pays d’Auge AOC) seems to be a better value. So I’ve been mixing cocktail recipes calling for applejack or apple brandy with calvados, to good effect.
Speaking of Death & Co (again), there is a recipe by Phil Ward that is just apple brandy and Laphroaig, two contrasting ingredients, with some Benedictine liqueur and Peychaud’s bitters marrying the two. With all the fruit and the smoke, it’s comforting and a bit rich, and a great way to celebrate the fall.
Shruff’s End (Phil Ward)
In a mixing glass –
1 oz Laphroaig 10-year scotch
1 oz Laird’s bonded apple brandy (Daron XO calvados)
0.5 oz Benedictine
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
stir with ice, strain into chilled coupe
Don’t put away that calvados bottle yet… Another delicious cocktail is the American Trilogy, an Old Fashioned variation by Richard Boccato and Michael McIlroy created at Milk & Honey that my friend Ram of Boy Drinks World turned me on to. It’s based on a mix of apple brandy and rye in equal parts, with orange bitters as the accent. Ram makes his version with calvados and I fully approve.
(French) American Trilogy
(Richard Boccato and Michael McIlroy, adapted)
In a mixing glass –
1 oz rye
1 oz calvados
1 barspoon 2:1 Demerara syrup
2 dashes oranges bitters (1 each of Fee Brothers’ and Regan’s)
stir with ice, strain into chilled rocks glass filled over a large ice cube
orange and lemon peel garnish
- The American Trilogy on Unami Mart
- Jack Rose, where Audrey Saunders talks about bonded apple brandy
- Calvados Unpeeled, presentation for Tales of the Cocktail 2014, Jason Wilson, Philip Duff, et al.
- Jason Wilson has been writing the praises of calvados for years now, in his book Boozehound and also in a series of articles that I am listing below
- In Normandy, Young Ambition Stirs a Traditional Brandy, Jason Wilson, 2014, New York Times
- Bobbing for Apple Brandy, Jason Wilson, October 2012, Table Matters
- Loving Calvados to the Core, Jason Wilson, October 2009, Washington Post
- Fun With Calvados, Jason Wilson, September 2009, Washington Post
- Falling for the Taste of Apple in a Glass, Jason Wilson, October 2008, Washington Post