The Calvados Cocktail

The Calvados Cocktail

Calvados Cocktail

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.

Calvados Cocktail

Calvados Cocktail

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.

Calvados Cocktail ingredients

Calvados Cocktail ingredients

Brandy Crusta

Brandy Crusta

Brandy Crusta

Brandy Crusta

If it seems like a while since we posted a bevvy from Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails it has been. Summer caught us off-guard and we have allowed ourselves the distraction of side-projects and travels. But never fear, we will conquer all the recipes in this book, it is a marathon not a sprint.

The Brandy Crusta is a cocktail we have enjoyed before so we knew we were in for a treat. However the recipe caused some degree of uncertainty. Haigh calls for ½ teaspoon of fresh lemon juice but it is unclear whether it is only to aid in creating the sugar rim or whether the juice should be added to the mix. We researched other Crusta recipes and decided on including the lemon juice.

The mixed concoction is an attractive drink, visually and on the palate. It is balanced and strong but diluted enough by the crushed ice not to burn.

Brandy Crusta Cognac

Brandy Crusta Cognac

The curacao is in the background, offering pleasant hints of orange, while the lemon from the zest and juice takes the lead. The sugar rim keeps the drink from being too tart while allowing a degree of personalization as regards the sweetness level.

D, who likes his drinks on the strong side, would not add the ice cube to the strained drink in the future. For my part I felt the slowly melting ice made this bold drink more approachable with each sip. Both of us agreed that it would be fun to try a variation using an orange twist in place of the lemon to highlight the curacao.

Haigh notes that the Crusta, dating from 1862, is patriarch of the Sidecar and Margarita family. The recipe seems to reflect its heritage, it is simple without being simplistic and austere yet still pleasant. I look forward to recreating this cocktail mid-winter while sitting in front of a roaring fire and watching snow (or in our case rain) fall from the sky. This is the kind of drink that warms your from the inside.

Brandy Crusta

  • 1 lemon
  • ½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • sugar
  • 2 ounces cognac
  • 1 teaspoon orange curacao
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters

Start by rimming a glass with sugar by first dipping the lip in lemon juice and then sugar. Next, using a vegetable peeler remove a large swath of zest from the lemon. Line the interior of the glass with the zest. Add remaining ingredients to a shaker of crushed ice and shake until frosty. Strain into your prepared glass. If desired add one small cube of ice to the completed drink.

Brandy Crusta Ingredients

Brandy Crusta Ingredients

Summer Sippers

Summer Sippers

Summer Sunset

Summer Sunset

Summer is in full swing, at least in my hemisphere, and this means it’s the perfect time to sit back and relax with a refreshing frosty beverage. For most of the year I prefer a short drink, to the point that when a bartender asks me what I like I always specify no rocks and no soda before I even consider the spirits that suit my mood. But for a couple months each summer these rules fly out the window. The dog days of summer beg for a long, cool, revitalizing bevvy. My normally spirit-forward palette suddenly craves seasonal fruit and citrus. Here are a few thirst-quenching cocktails guaranteed to beat the heat!

Sour Cherry Gin Sling

(Adapted from http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/sour-cherry-gin-slings)

Fresh sour cherries are only available for a couple of weeks a year so get them while the getting is good! Be sure to buy an extra pound or two to make your own maraschino cherries!!)

For the sour cherry syrup:

Cherry Syrup

Cherry Syrup

  • 1 pound sour cherries, stems removed
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • Zest of ½ lemon
  • Zest of ½ orange

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat (there is no need to pit the cherries). Reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth, discarding the solids. Allow the syrup to cool before use. The syrup will keep about 1 week in the refrigerator.

For the Slings:

Cherry Sling ingredients

Cherry Sling ingredients

  • 2 ounces Gin (we used Broker’s)
  • .66 ounce Cointreau
  • .66 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 2.5 ounces sour cherry syrup
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Soda water

Pour the gin, Cointreau, lime, and cherry syrup into a large Collins glass (12-14 ounces). Fill with ice, leaving only a couple of ounces of headroom. Top with soda (not too much or you will dilute the wonderful flavors!) and a couple of dashes of bitters. Garnish with a lime wheel and a maraschino cherry. Bask in the sunshine!

 

 

Violet Fizz

(From A.J. Rathbun’s Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz)

Our liquor cabinet is full of obscure ingredients purchased with a specific cocktail or two in mind. Recently I’ve made it my mission to find additional uses for these liqueurs. The Violet Fizz marries one of my favorite floral spirits with citrus to produce summer in a glass.

Violet Fizz:

Violet Fizz

Violet Fizz

  • 2 ounces gin (we used Broker’s)
  • .5 ounce Crème de Violette
  • .25 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • .25 ounce simple syrup
  • Club soda

Build the drink in a highball glass (8-9 ounces) by adding the gin, violette, lemon juice and simple syrup. Fill with ice until ¾ full. Top with club soda. (Tip: always use a fresh can or single-serving bottle of soda when creating fizzy cocktails. Family-sized bottles and open cans loose their carbonation quickly.) Garnish with a lemon wheel, maraschino cherry, or a violet if you have one!

Strega Fizz

(Source: http://www.cocktaildb.com/recipe_detail?id=2228)

Strega is an Italian herbal liqueur, reminiscent of a simplified yellow Chartreuse, but with more citrus notes. It is relatively inexpensive and drinks well on its own or mixed into cocktails. This simple recipe, which seems to capture the essence and color of sunshine, is delightfully light and quenching.

Strega Fizz:

  • 1 ounce gin (again we used Broker’s)
  • 1 ounce Strega
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • Club soda
Strega Fizz

Strega Fizz

Add the gin, Strega, and lemon juice to a highball glass (8-9 ounces). Fill with ice until ¾ full. Top with soda. Garnish with a lemon wheel.

Barbara West Cocktail

Barbara West Cocktail

 Barbara West Cocktail

We approach certain cocktails in this book with great anticipation; others with mild interest, the Barbara West cocktail fell into the latter category. I was perhaps more keen than D, having developed an interest in sherry while taking a wine course for work some months back. Yet D, ever the trooper, was assigned the task of collecting the ingredients for this drink.

Brokers Gin November 06, 2013 023-4-Edit-2

Brokers Gin

He returned home from shopping with more bottles than seemed necessary for such a simple libation. At the BCL the selection was limited to a medium dry Australian sherry. Ever the purist, D felt strongly that sherry should originate in Spain, but as he feared he would not be able to find a Spanish Amontillado in our neighborhood and as the bottle was inexpensive, he acquired it nevertheless. From his sack he also produced a bottle of Broker’s Dry Gin. Over the last few months we have amassed quite the collection of gin and I’m sure we could have made do with a product from our shelf, but D experienced an immediate and overwhelming need for the gin with the hat. I may have mocked him for a minute or two for falling prey to such a marketing scheme, but after trying the Broker’s I found it to be incredibly well balanced and have been converted.

Sherry

Unhappy with his Australian sherry, D popped into a local wine store. Here he found the selection to be significantly superior. After consulting a salesman he selected a medium dry Amontillado at a very reasonable price point.

Our ingredients amassed, the resultant cocktail met mixed reviews. The Barbara West has a nice gin punch, like a martini, but with a nuttiness and brininess from the sherry. It has raisin and citrus notes and is pleasantly bitter. I tasted it before and after adding a lemon twist and found that the lemon oils present in the peel were essential to the drink. I felt an immediate craving for a bowl of olives and could see drinking it with a plate of cured meats and cheese.

For his part, D was not overly fond of this concoction, though this should not come as a surprise as it’s a rather subtle gin-based libation. He declared it to be “surprisingly boozy” and reminiscent of “Santa Barbara in the springtime,” though I’m not sure he’s ever been to that part of California at any time of year.

Barbara West Cocktail

  • 2 ounces gin (we used Broker’s)
  • 1 ounce sherry (a medium-dry Amontillado works well)
  • .5 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters

Shake over ice. Strain. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Barbara West Cocktail

Barbara West Cocktail

Ted Haigh offers no insight as to the origins of the name of this cocktail, and further research has revealed nothing with certainty. While I could see pairing this drink with certain foods I must admit that the libation is as forgettable as it’s namesake.