In our neck of the woods, there’s a chill in the night air, pumpkins are arranged in front of every grocery store and Halloween decorations take up their own aisle at the CVS (it is still September, right?). All of that means fall is upon us. And if you haven’t made the acquaintance of Calvados, autumn is the best time to start.
At 80 proof, Calvados is potent enough to drink like any brown spirit, but it has a profound apple taste we can’t get enough of—like fall in a glass. We’re using the entry-level bottle from Christian Drouin, a highly acclaimed third-generation Calvados producer that makes spirits with layered flavors that are as lovely neat as they are stirred into cocktails.
Gutsy enough to serve as a cocktail base, but smooth enough to play well with others, this is an ideal spirit for mixing, whether paired with ginger in a highball or as a feature player in an old-fashioned.
Easy: Calvados and Ginger Beer
Apples and ginger are a no-brainer of a flavor pairing, so it’s no surprise that Calvados follows suit. While ginger ale wouldn’t be bad, we much prefer the darker, more powerful flavors of a good ginger beer. A little Angostura amps up all of those winter spice notes.
Instructions: In a tall glass with ice, combine 1½ ounces of Calvados, 4 ounces of ginger beer and a dash of Angostura bitters. Garnish with a lime wheel.
Intermediate: Calvados Old-Fashioned
With just bitters, sweetener, booze and garnish, an old-fashioned is the ideal way to showcase many brown spirits, and Calvados is no exception. Instead of using sugar, we’re swapping in honey, which pairs beautifully with the apple flavors. Don’t skip the bitters or the garnish here: In such a simple cocktail, they’re both essential.
Instructions: In a mixing glass with ice, combine 2 ounces of Calvados and ½ ounce of honey syrup (that’s just honey diluted with an equal amount of hot water, making it easier to stir into a drink). Add 2 dashes each of orange bitters and Angostura. Strain into a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with a big twist each of orange and lemon peel—twisting both over the surface of the drink to spray their citrus oils all over.
Advanced: Automne en Normandie
What pairs well with apple brandy? A free drink for the first person who said more apple. Though we like the stiffness of Calvados in an old-fashioned, it’s equally tasty in a slightly less booze-forward drink, such as this shaken cocktail that combines good fall apples with Calvados, lemon and honey.
Instructions: In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, muddle ¼ of an apple—something fresh and tart, like a Honeycrisp, is ideal. Add ice along with 2 ounces of Calvados, ½ ounce of fresh lemon juice and ½ ounce of honey syrup (honey diluted with an equal amount of hot water). Give that a hard shake, and then double-strain it through a fine mesh strainer into a glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a few apple slices and some ground cinnamon if you’re feeling fancy.