The Calvados Cocktail
Who says drinking can’t be healthy? The Calvados cocktail contains both apples and oranges. I feel practically saint-like making this drink – almost as if I’m shaking up a salad! With the addition of a whopping ¾ ounce of bitters this bevvy has to have some health benefits, right? Right…?
At the very least this cocktail should succeed in elevating your mood, as spirits are known to do. The base here is Calvados, an apple brandy from the Normandy region of France. Calvados is a spirit I like a lot; it is strong but mellow with a pleasant apple finish. It is commonly found in the Widow’s Kiss cocktail, one of my all-time favorites.
D bought Cara Cara oranges for the juice component and when we cut in to them we were surprised to find pink flesh. However the peels were bursting with orange oil and the aroma was heavenly, so while the color was affected the taste was not.
We had several types of orange bitters on hand: Angostura, which is spicy and woody; Fee Brothers, which is bright and intensely orange; and Regans’, which is more bitter and less citrusy. For the first round I chose Angostura and D opted for Fee’s. Both versions of the cocktail were surprisingly bitter, though in a way that most cocktail enthusiasts should find pleasant.
Reading through the ingredients list we both expected this libation to be sweet, yet it is not. The Angostura version was very woody, “like gnawing on a pencil,” said D. The Fee’s variation was more pleasing and gentle. Both drinks presented pine, wood, and caramel, though in different proportions. Ted Haigh hits the nail on the head when he compares the Calvados Cocktail to an orange Negroni. Perhaps the only disappointment was the near absence of apple flavor. Neither of us is sure we would recognize the base spirit as Calvados if presented the drink in a blind tasting.
We were curious about Haigh’s use of Cointreau versus the more common-to-the-era Curacao but suspected it was probably deliberately chosen because of its higher sugar content. But true to our nature, we just had to try a Curacao variation. This time we used a Naval orange and a 50/50 mix of Fee’s and Regans’ bitters with great success. This version is much more mellow, with less wood and a greater marriage of ingredients. Both the orange and the apple are present, much to our delight.
The Calvados Cocktail is definitely a keeper, it is juicy without being sweet and a great introduction to bitter cocktails for the uninitiated. We are glad that we took the time to try several different versions, proving as always that the ingredients determine the quality of the cocktail.
The Calvados Cocktail
- 1.5 ounces Calvados (we used a VSOP)
- 1.5 ounces fresh orange juice, strained
- .75 ounce Cointreau or Curacao
- .75 ounce orange bitters (blend several if you have them)
Shake over ice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange wheel or twist.