November 19th, 2007

As much as I love gin, after so many gin cocktails I fancied trying something a bit different this weekend. I recently travelled to France for work, and whilst there picked up a bottle of rather nice XO Calvados, so decided that was probably a good place to start.

Calvados is a French brandy that comes from the eponymous department of the Basse-Normandie region. It is created using a mixture of sweet and bitter apples which are fermented in to a cider and then distilled to produce a clear eau de vie. This is then aged in oak casks for a minimum of two years, though higher-quality Calvados can be aged well in excess of ten years.

Although fundamentally the same (being spirits distilled from apple cider), Calvados and its American cousin Applejack are fairly different to taste, with the former being far smoother and the later having a bit more bite to it. While you can interchange them in cocktail recipes, it won’t always work and will almost certainly change the character of the cocktail you are making.

To sample Calvados I decided to try a classic cocktail that is featured in David Wondrich’s new book Imbibe!, as well as Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails.

Widow's Kiss cocktail

Widow’s Kiss

The Widow’s Kiss is a strong but beautifully rich cocktail, perfect for these cold winter months. Chartreuse leads, with apple and sweet herbal hints from the Bénédictine following. The drink has a long herbal finish with a slight hint of apple. As the drink warms the taste develops, making each sip slightly different to the last. Every one is equally delicious though.

I first tried this with Green Chartreuse, but while it was drinkable the Chartreuse dominated a little too much. The less powerful Yellow Chartreuse allows the subtleties of the Calvados to emerge, as well as providing more herbal notes from the Bénédictine. While not a bad drink with Green Chartreuse, with the yellow variety the Widow’s Kiss is simply wonderful.

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Posted in Aromatic Bitters, Bénédictine, Calvados, Chartreuse, Recipes

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2 responses to “Calvados”

  1. Ouroboros Ouroboros says:

    My favorite cocktail lounge, Teardrop, did a week of chartreuse drink specials in September. The Widow’s Kiss was the special that fateful night I stopped in. What a wonderful drink! The ingredients list made me fear it would be too sweet, but sugars just seem to provide warmth on the palate. And, yes, the drink migrates as it warms in the glass.

    Thanks for the recipe, but more importantly reminding me of this cocktail.

  2. Mark Mark says:

    Just recently I made a cocktail with somewhat similar products. I replaced the Calvados with Applejack and replaced the Chartreuse with Strega. I also added a touch of filtered water as I think it helps tame the insanity of the herbal elements.

    Cider House Witch

    2 oz. Applejack
    3/4 oz. Strega
    1/2 oz. Benedictine
    1/2 oz. Filtered Water
    6 drops Angostura Bitters

    1. Add all ingredients to ice-filled cocktail shaker.
    2. Shake vigorously for about 20-seconds.
    3. Strain into cocktail glass.

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