Holiday Cocktail Recipes

By / Wine + Drinks / December 9th, 2010 / 2

We’re into the harvest season now, and there’s so much fruit around that it’s an embarrassment of riches. Much of the bounty will be consumed fresh or preserved to carry its goodness over to winter. A small fraction of the crop, at least in places like Alsace and Germany, will be magically transformed into fruit eaux-de-vie, dry white spirits with wonderful fruit aromas.

These eaux-de-vie are popular in Europe where they’re made from just about any fruit you can think of. They make lovely aperitifs chilled, and perform beautifully in mixed drinks. Kirsch, Abricot, Myrtille, Mure, Pêche, Quetch and Slivovitz are well-known fruit spirits.

These bottles require large amounts of fruit to create small amounts of spirit — 50 pounds of pears go into a single litre of Poire Williams — so don’t expect them to come in at Fuzion prices. These liquid crystallizations of ripe fruit are worth the price. In Normandy, apple cider distillate is aged in wood and is called Calvados. Although it retains its fresh apple aromas, Calva, a brown spirit, picks up spiciness from the oak. It’s a pleasant alternative to the usual Cognac or Armagnac, a bit rough in youth when it’s best served mixed in coffee or as a restorative. Mature Calva makes a great “trou Normand,” a mid-meal digestive.

Once you’ve tasted a range of eaux-de-vie straight, you’ll want to see how they perform in deliciously fruited autumn cocktails. Here are a few recipes to get you started. I think serving them chilled is best for showing off the fruit.

Widow’s Kiss
1 oz Calvados
1/2 oz yellow Chartreuse
1/2 oz Benedictine
Dash of bitters (optional)

Pour all of the ingredients into an ice-filled shaker. Shake well. Strain into a well chilled cocktail glass.

Apple Car
1/4 oz Calvados apple brandy
1/4 oz triple sec
3/4 oz lemon juice.

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry (optional).

Pear Chilled Champagne
1 1/2 oz to 2 oz Pear eau-de-vie
5 oz chilled demi-sec well chilled Champagne or Prosecco

Pour the eau-de-vie into a champagne flute. Finish filling the flute with the champagne and garnish with a slice of pear.

The Modern Old-Fashioned (From the Modern in New York)
2 oz Maker’s Mark Bourbon
1 1/2 oz Poire William (pear eau-de-vie)
1/2 oz simple syrup
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Dash Angostura bitters
5 slices of firm, ripe pear
4 dried cherries

Soak the cherries in 1/2 oz of the Poire William to soften and plump them up. Put three of the cherries on a cocktail skewer and set aside. Muddle four slices of pear, one cherry, and the splash of lemon juice in a cocktail shaker. Add ice, Bourbon, all the eau-de-vie, simple syrup and bitters. Shake and strain into a chilled old-fashioned glass with ice. Garnish with the skewered cherries and the last slice of pear.


Sheila Swerling Puritt is a recognized judge at national and international wine, spirit and food competitions. She has maintained an ongoing love affair with the industry dating back to university and has taught in Sommelier programs. She was also President of the Wine Writers Circle of Canada.

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