Trust me, the appletini may be a gay bar standby for some, but the apple has so much more to scream about. “Calvados!” It sounds like a battle cry. When I asked a few friends what their favorite Calvados drink was, the common response was, “What’s Calvados?” Here’s a hint; it’s not nearly as well known as its more hoity-toity cousin, cognac (no one ever said, “pass the Calvados” in a rap song). Calvados is an apple- and/or pear-based brandy from the northern part of France along the English Channel in the Normandy region. Farms and distilleries have produced high-quality apple brandy there since around 1900. More than 2,000 varieties of autumn apples are collected after falling to the ground. (I guess that’s how they know the apples are ready.)
For years, Calvados has had the whole “wine glass or small snifter after-dinner drink” thing going for it. It is, after all, a digestif, but it can (and should) be mixed. This Calvados cocktail is a variation on the Vieux Carré (meaning Old Square, it is an old-school drink out of New Orleans) introduced to me by the fabulous cocktail master, Tipsy Texan’s David Alan. We’ll call it “Vieux Pomme” (old apple).
On to the second drink. Applejack is an American apple brandy and makes a pretty tasty cocktail. I’ve heard that taking applejack shots isn’t the best idea, so savor a cocktail by my friend, Anup Mistri, on a warm fall night in Austin.
Enjoy these fabulous cocktails and get to know your apple brandies.
1 oz. Calvados
1 oz. rye whisky
1 oz. sweet vermouth
Bar spoon of Benedictine
3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters 2 dashes Angostura bitters
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and stir with ice to chill. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist.
JACK AND JILL
1 1⁄2 oz. Laird’s Applejack 1⁄2 oz. lime juice
1⁄2 oz. quality maple syrup 3 mint leaves
Maine root ginger brew
Combine ingredients in a shaker glass with ice. Shake and strain into a glass with ice and top with Maine root ginger brew. Garnish with an apple slice and a mint leaf.
Part two of our apple journey takes us to my new favorite, apple cider! Apples used in making cider are much smaller than those found on grocers’ shelves. Cider makers and distillers use an accumulation of several varieties that complement each other. There are 48 recommended varieties grouped into four categories (sweet-sour, bitter, sour, and sweet apples), which come together to produce juice. After being pressed, the unclarified juice is then fermented into cider with between 6 and 8 percent alcohol. The cider is then passed through a still and eventually emerges as 70-percent alcohol. The clear spirit then goes into a barrel, where it develops color, additional aromas and flavors. It is aged an average of five years, but it can be aged for many more. Juicy, indeed!
Although some might say hard ciders are for girls, I say, watch your mouth. Ciders are equally enjoyed across the pond and in our bars as well. Apple and pear ciders vary in alcohol content just like beers. Pay attention to labels or you could end up doing some time traveling. You would think that everyone would understand that ciders are gluten-free since they’re made from apples. Well, they are. Just saying. When we were younger, maybe we didn’t care what we were tossing back as long as it did the job. But some ciders contain concentrated apple juice, additional sugars, and other additives. Also check that calorie count. Some “diet beer” makers are trying their hand at ciders. Great effort, but are the calorie counts really that much less than, oh let’s say (my favorite!), Magners?
You know how you find yourself at Half Price Books or searching iTunes and suddenly you can’t remember all those books and songs you have been meaning to buy? That’s how cider is. Just text yourself, tie a string around your tongue, whatever it takes. Don’t forget the cider!
Cider is an Irish/ English tradition, so pubs are your best bet when it comes to locating a cool cider.
Fado’s Irish Pub
When I worked on 6th Street in my early 20s, Fado’s became our regular Sunday pilgrimage for a cracking good Irish breakfast and guess what? They have cider!
Whip-In is my absolute favorite store to pick up a nice cider. I love the building, the food, the people and the vibe.
Whole Foods Market has a solid selection of ciders and a very knowledgeable staff.
The Dog and Duck
The Dog and Duck is a pub, with diet-free pub food and a unique, fun atmosphere.
Spec’s is a stimulating place to shop for your favorite adult beverages (and cheeses, and snacks, and other little nibbly bits).
Photography by John Conroy.