Calvados, Normandy's Apple Brandy
Normandy is famed for many gastronomic delights, from its cheese and dairy products, to its meat and mussels. It is not known as a serious wine-producing region, but when it comes to beverages, the apple reigns supreme! The Basse-Normandie region has been rife with apple orchards since the time of Charlemagne, and the making of Calvados apple brandy and cider has been going on for many centuries.
Calvados is not made from a single apple variety. Indeed, producers will purposefully cultivate and select many—as many as 200!—different varieties to intensify the complexity of the brandy. So sweet, bitter, tart, even inedible varieties are chosen. The apples are pressed into a juice that is then fermented into a dry cider and distilled in either a single or double distillation. The result is a strong, clear spirit, which becomes amber as it is aged in oak casks: by Calvados AOC regulation, for at least 2 years, although often it is aged longer. Its designation will be an indication of its age:
Fine, trois éoiles, Trois pommes - at least 2 years old
Vieux, Réserve - at least 3 years old
VO, Vieille Réerve, VSOP - at least 4 years old
Extra, XO, Napoléon, Hors d'Age, Age Inconnu - at least 6 years old, but often much older
How is Calvados consumed? In Normandy, it is the key player in le trou Normand, or "the Norman hole," in which a small sip of calvados is taken between the courses of a very long, multi-course meal. It is sometimes accompanied by sorbet, and is said to revive the appetite. It can also be used as an aperitif, digestif, in cocktails, or in coffee.
If you search the internet, there are a plethora of Calvados-based cocktails, but here are a couple we found delectable!
Fallen Leaves 1 part dry vermouth
3 parts sweet red vermouth (Martini Rosso)
3 parts calvados
1 dash cognac or brandy
1 twist lemon
Stir with ice in cocktail shaker, serve up in a cocktail glass, garnish with lemon.
Serendipity (created by famed bartender Colin Field of the the Ritz Paris's Bar Hemingway)
2 parts apple juice
1 part calvados
6 mint leaves
8 parts champagne
Muddle the mint in a highball glass, then fill with ice cubes. Add apple juice and calvados, top with champagne, stir.
Want to learn more? Consider a French cooking vacation in Normandy, where you will have the chance to enjoy Calvados while tasting authentic Norman cuisine.
By Peg Kern