Cocktails and Spirits with Paul Clarke: Rediscovering Calvados and Other Apple Brandies

Cocktails and Spirits with Paul Clarke

Weekly insight into the world of drinks with Paul Clarke from the Cocktail Chronicles and Imbibe magazine.


[Flickr: shiokuma]

Since the autumn transition is now official, I'm taking a seasonal approach to my liquor cabinet. The white booze, like the white shoes, has been packed away until the warm months roll around again.

OK, that's not entirely true. Good gin is a year-round pleasure, and sometimes you need a daiquiri or two during the winter to remind you that summer does indeed exist. But now that the nights are cooler and the leaves are starting to change, I'm looking at aged spirits with renewed enthusiasm, and one style of spirit in particular: Calvados.

In today's Washington Post, drink columnist Jason Wilson touches on a theme he started last fall: the often-overlooked apple brandy from Normandy. He recounts how he first discovered the spirit in a noisy airport restaurant during a lackluster business trip to France.

Suddenly, I felt warm and happy and laughed at myself for being down; I mean, please, I was on a business trip to France, not Des Moines. I must have spent the entire second half of the soccer game [on the restaurant's TV] with that glass, and I went back to my room a little less lonely.

While my introduction to Calvados occurred under more prosaic circumstances, I'm no less fond of the spirit. But as Wilson notes, this love of the rich apple brandy is not yet shared by many American restaurants. He writes:

Where else are people supposed to learn to taste fine, top-end spirits? Yet there frequently is a lack of creativity or even thought put into these offerings. We hear so much about Scotch and cognac, and rightly so. But Calvados provides a similarly sophisticated and complex experience.

Fortunately, some restaurants and an increasing number of bars are rediscovering the charms of Calvados and other apple brandies. Are you a fan of Calvados? Which brands and styles do you like?