Normandy is famous for many of the world’s most delicious delicacies: Camembert, apples, oysters, and the most luscious cream and butter, cidre and of course, Calvados -the apple brandy that has been distilled there for over five centuries. Calvados, in a way, is made like a fine perfume, with producers meticulously combining upwards of 200 different varieties of apples ranging from sweet to tart to bittersweet and bitter into their eau de vie. In one appellation, pears are also used in the formula. Bitter and tart apples must make up the majority of the composition (70%), while the remainder is comprised of sweet apples used to provide a balance of flavour. For this reason, Calvados isn’t sweet, as some American apple brandies are, but has a very complex, refined & dry taste. When aged properly it’s smooth and rich. Young Calvados has the intense aroma and flavour of apples and oak. As the brandy ages, the apple flavour mellows out a bit and becomes silky.
Traditionally, a small glass of Calvados was served between the courses of a large meal to cleanse the palate. I love to sip it over ice as an apéritif and to use it in cocktails. This Calvados Martini is made with a base of French Vodka and includes a little Cointreau to balance the apple flavours. I add just a touch of simple syrup which can be made quickly and easily as needed in the microwave.
1 apple, preferably a crisp, sweet variety such as Honeycrisp, Gala or Opal
2 oz. (6 cl) French vodka ( I use Grey Goose)
1/2 oz. (1.5 cl) Calvados
1/2 oz. (1.5 cl) Cointreau
1/2 oz. (1.5 cl) simple syrup
To make the simple syrup, mix equal parts sugar and water in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high until the mixture comes to a full boil. Stir to completely dissolve the sugar, then let cool. (For two cocktails I use 1.5 Tablespoons each of sugar and water and cook it for about 45 seconds in the microwave.)
To make the cocktail, cut the apple into quarters and remove the core. Place one quarter of the apple in the bottom of a cocktail shaker and muddle (or mash with the end of a wooden spoon). Add the vodka, Calvados, Cointreau and simple syrup. Shake well until very cold. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a cocktail glass and garnish with an apple slice from the remaining apple.