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  • Writer's pictureDane

Drinks with Dane | Week 4

We're headed to France this week with a history lesson about the one drink in Paris that's more popular than wine.

Hello Friends, Fall is my favorite season by far! From the flavors, colors, and the holidays. It's something I look forward to every year. Nothing says early fall more than apples, so today we’ll be talking about a little known spirit from Normandy, France made from apple and pears and we’ll be using it in a lovely sipper of a drink that I think really captures this early Fall season in a glass.

Thank you for your support and please tag me @daneolson on Instagram or #DrinksWithDane so I can raise a glass with you!


Let's Chat About Calvados

Calvados is a region in Normandy, and a French brandy made from apple and pears. The area has been known for its orchards going as far back as the 8th century which was during the time of Charlemagne.

The first mention of distillation in the area was in the mid 1500’s with guides for cider distillation created in the early 1600’s. The big break for calvados came with the help of a small louse named phylloxera vastatrix which around 1874 had started to chew the vine roots in Europe. It knocked out the competition from wine and wine brandies and suddenly calvados and cider became in high demand.

The following years became the “Belle Epoque” or beautiful days of Calvados. In Normandy, hardly any vines were replanted and the market for cider and calvados would never be better. To meet demand the orchards almost quadrupled in thirty years from 4 million hectares in 1870 to 14 million hectares in 1900 and in 1889 Fabienne Cosset concluded that cider had replaced wine in Paris.

Calvados is one of the few French spirits to hold an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée or AOC for short. You might be familiar with AOC when dealing with wine, but there are also AOC for spirits, cheese, honey, butter, etc. The AOC certification is part of a larger international movement of geographical protectionism (trademark) through geographical indications (GI) that helps to ensure products with that GI meets a minimum standard to ensure the product is exemplary of the whole area's work. In the world of spirits and wine there are many of these GI - AOC in France, Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) in Italy, Protected designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected geographical indication (PGI) in the European Union , Norma Oficial Mexicana (NOM) in Mexico, and the many other GI around the world. When you pick up a bottle of Calvados, you know it's going to meet a minimum of rigorous standards ensuring its quality.


Calvados AOC and its Two Sub AOC

Calvados AOC

  • Must be made from apples grown within the Calvados area

  • Must be aged for a minimum of two years in oak - typically aged in large oak foudres ranging from 250 gallons to 2,500 gallons

  • While double column distillation is allowed, most typically distill once in a column still.

Calvados Pays d’Auge AOC

  • Considered to be the highest quality of Calvados

  • Limited to no more than 30% pears in the blend of apple and pears

  • Doubled distilled in Alembic Pot Stills

  • Minimum age of two years in oak barrels but often aged for much longer - often comparable to Cognac - as it can be aged up to and beyond forty years in barrel.

Calvados Domfrontais AOC

  • A Minimum of 30% pears - many up to 70% and 80% apple and pear blend

  • Distilled in a continuous column still

  • Aged in oak for a minimum of three years

Next we’re going to look at label terms for minimum age statements, keep in mind that these are the legal minimums and might be different from one brand to another but it will give you a good guide.

  • Minimum 2 years - ***(three star) / Fine / VS

  • Minimum 3 years - Vieux / Reserve

  • Minimum 4 years - VO / VSOP / Vielle Reserve

  • Minimum 6 Years - XO / Extra / Napoleon / Hors d’Age

Note - Particularly with the Napoleon and Hors d’Age, these are the oldest of age statements

Phew! Now that everyone has a great foundation about what Calvados is and some of the rules that make it different - lets get on to the fun stuff, Cocktails!


Cocktail of the Week: Harvest Thyme

We mentioned egg white in last week's cocktail and today we're putting it to practice. The egg white helps give a velvety texture to the finished cocktail which pairs nicely with the sweet and savory flavors of Calvados and thyme. Don't worry - the friction of shaking actually "cooks" the egg so you're not going to have anything slimy in your drink. You can substitute Aquafaba or Free Foam if you don't eat eggs.

I know making your own syrup may feel complicated, but it's worth the effort and takes less than 20 minutes. Plus this syrup can be added to other Fall recipes like salad dressings and roasted vegetables!


What you’ll need:


Honey Cider Thyme Syrup

We’re going to make ourselves a festive fall syrup that makes this drink an autumn breeze!

In a small sauce pot, bring to a boil equal parts clover honey and apple cider. (pro tip: run hot water over your honey to make it easier to pour!) Make sure to continuously stir as this may boil over. Once the honey cider has reached a boil, turn it off and add 6-7 thyme sprigs, stir to incorporate the thyme, and let sit for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, strain out the thyme and let cool to room temperature


Harvest Thyme Cocktail serves 1 1 ½ oz Calvados

1oz Honey Cider Thyme Syrup

1oz Egg White (white of one egg)

¾ oz Fresh Lemon Juice

Thyme Sprig

Combine all ingredients into shaker tin and dry shake. This is a good habit even if you're not using fresh egg whites

To dry shake: shake all ingredients in tin without ice for at least 2 minutes to emulsify the egg white. This is how you build creamy soft silky foam.

Add ice and shake once again until the shaker tins are frosty cold, and double strain with a fine mesh strainer into coupe or martini glass. Garnish with thyme sprig. Salute!

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