The apple brandy your bar cart is missing

An under-appreciated spirit, Calvados bears delectable fruit for those who discover its charms

February 9, 2016

By Neal McLennan / Photo: David Strongman

What a difference a name makes. If I were to say I enjoy sipping on apple brandy, some might picture me in overalls, railing on about the War of Northern Aggression and expressing admiration for Donald Trump. But if I say I’m partial to Calvados, I’m a continental sort who flits from one world capital to another. At their core, however, the two are the result of the same process: gather up some apples (and the occasional pear) from the orchard floor, press them into juice, and let it ferment. Then take this rough ’n’ ready version of dry cider, fire up the still (either a rustic pot still or a modern column version), and out comes apple brandy—or Calvados if it hails from lower Normandy and undergoes a minimum two years of oak aging.

Those expecting a glass of boozy SunRype will be pleasantly surprised, however. In the same way that neighbouring French eaux de vie Cognac and Armagnac don’t exactly taste like grapes, Calvados does not scream apples. Younger versions have a light, fresh tartness that channels crab-apple skin, but as the spirit ages and gains more complexity it starts to move toward richer flavours like cinnamon, caramelized sugar, and even orange peel—like a slightly more rustic version of Cognac. But whereas an XO Cognac will set you back $200-plus, an XO Calvados is less than half that, and a serviceable young version is half that again. All of which makes it a relatively affordable element for some elevated cocktail experimentation. A Calvados sidecar is sublime, and it makes for an interesting Old Fashioned. Or you can just channel your inner playboy and drink it neat after dinner.

Make your own Eau de Pomme cocktail with this recipe from Torafuku‘s Max Borrowman.

1¼ oz Père Magloire Fine V.S. Calvados
¼ oz yellow Chartreuse
½ oz Punt e Mes
½ oz El Maestro Sierra Amontillado sherry
1 dash Apothecary cherry cedar bitters

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass, add ice, stir, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist and a cinnamon stick


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