Calvados 101

Calvados is a Christmas cracker that has fallen out of favour somewhat in recent years.

A perfect present, delicious after-dinner drink and cracking cocktail addition (not to mention an all-important ingredient in Aunt Alice’s Christmas puddings), yet often overlooked in favour of fancier French liqueurs. Enough is enough, we argue that Calvados’ time has come; read on – it’s Calvados 101…

What is Calvados?

Calvados is an apple brandy made exclusively in Normandy. There are two main names to remember – AOC Calvados and  AOC Calvados Pays d’Auge . The former encompasses the largest area of Normandy and accounts for 70% of the total Calvados production. The latter produces on a smaller scale and has much stricter production rules (double distillation is a minimum requirement) resulting in a higher quality spirit.

How is it made?

Calvados can be made from over 200 apple varieties. Once the chosen apples have been picked, they are pressed for their juices, which are then fermented into cider using native yeasts. Once this fermentation is complete, the cider is distilled using an alembic pot-still. At this stage it earns the name “eau de vie”, is tasted by the distiller and selected for aging.

Calvados is aged for a minimum of two years in either virgin or used Calvados oak barrels. Top tier Calvados usually ages for around 25+ years.

Like other blended spirits, the number stated on the bottle is the youngest age of the spirit involved, though distillers often add amounts of much older Calvados to achieve desired textures and flavours.

As Calvados ages the flavours deepen and develop. Over time, the fresh apple notes become cooked, spicy and more unctuous, while the mouthfeel becomes more luxuriant.

How do I drink Calvados?

Younger Calvados blends are perfect for cocktails; our favourite is the Pomme Pomme – a simple mix of Calvados, with a dash of bitters, topped off with champagne.

Older Calvados deserves to be drunk neat and is best served in a stemmed tulip glass at room temperature. This will enhance the aromas emanating from the glass. If you don’t have any tulip glasses handy, a port glass will suffice.

Calavdos also makes a delicious after-dinner tipple. Try pairing it with a chunk or two of rich dark chocolate, a good book and a comfortable chair.