How Do You Like Them Apples?
They say “an apple a day,” right? But if you tried to do that all year ’round, some of those apples would be … well, less equal than others.
The best time to bite into a crisp, juicy apple is at the tail end of summer and into the fall — harvest time. After that, it’s time to switch to calvados, the tried and true method for preserving apple goodness throughout the year. Generally made by distilling apple cider, calvados is still under the radar at our nation’s bars, even though the spirit is the official drink of several branches of the Canadian Armed Forces, who adopted it after the D-Day invasion. To this day, Normandy’s signature apple brandy is still used as a palate cleanser in between meals at official dinners.
Given the range of spirits and aperitifs made with distilled cider, however, it’s hard to know how to get the most out of it as a cocktail ingredient. Some products are aged for only two years, while others make it to the quarter-century club. Calvados is also occasionally made with pear cider instead of apple and, of late, we’ve been seeing a new strain, pommeau, a traditional apéritif version of calvados that mixes up the spirit with a little fresh-pressed cider. I asked Kyle Burch, known for his calvados cocktails at Toronto’s Cava where he tends bar, to explain why it inspires him so.
“I really like the spectrum of spirits that complement calvados,” says Burch, “but I approach it in a very different way than I would a brandy, since I’m specifically looking to showcase the apple flavour.”
Burch advises we reach for white vermouth, gin and young sherry when picking soul mates for calvados. But he cautions we should be careful and avoid having a heavy hand with these modifiers.
“I think of calvados as something like a Burgundy, as opposed to a California Cabernet,” he explains. “A California Cab hits you in the face, as opposed to a Burgundy, which is a little more thoughtful and delicate.”
Especially so with pommeau, which he uses in his Hildegard cocktail and is so delicate that, once you start to mix it up, it’s easy to lose the distinct fresh apple flavour. But Burch is an old pro and, as such, managed to find the perfect formula to showcase pommeau in this subtle, yet boozy, pre-dinner libation.
And, yes, we really do love them apples.
1 oz London Dry gin
1 oz fino sherry (Burch recommends Barbadillo Solear Manzanilla or something similar)
1 oz Père Jules Pommeau
3 drops orange flower water
3 dashes Regans’ orange bitters
Stir over ice. (Burch advises to stir “quick and light,” so as to preserve the delicacy.) Strain and serve straight up into a chilled coupe.