Red wine is perhaps my favorite alcoholic drink. By no means am I a connoisseur of fine wines, I just know what I personally like.
One frigid night while trying to escape the winter winds in Bratislava, Slovakia, we made our way to the hotel’s lobby. Instead of a glass of red my husband suggested I order some cognac to warm up quicker. This was the first time I’d ever tasted cognac. I swirled my glass, more out of habit than proper etiquette, and poked my nose in for a smell. Immediately I knew that I was going to love cognac as much as I do wine. A small sip, then the warm swallow. Wow! It was strong but I loved the warmth and taste the it left in my mouth and down my throat. Cognac like wine is made from grapes and comes from the Cognac region of France, it is also the best known type of brandy.
As I took the last sip of Cognac I looked at my husband and declared that I loved cognac — but to be sure I would need another glass. (wink)
A few years ago while vacationing in Basse-Normandie (or Lower Normandy) we got to sample a famous brandy from the region called Calvados, it too goes by the same name. Calvados is a fruit brandy distilled from apples. It is made through a double distillation of cider then aged in French oak barrels. The apples used can range from very sweet to tart and bitter varieties.
Our first sampling or introduction to calvados was thanks to a great waiter from a restaurant in Trouville-sur-Mer. He suggested an apéritif while we explored the menu and decided on our dinner menu. As he served our calvados he went on to explain that it was a special apple brandy from the region. Very proudly, he said that a visit to the region was not complete without a few glasses of calvados. Who are we to argue with him, so we asked for a couple of glasses.
We brought our snifters in close for a smell. Calvados smells like apples and a tad sweet, but also like the alcohol of brandy or cognac. The color is golden and as it ages it turns a darker brown. The initial taste is apples, then a warm brandy taste, and the last undertones are of apples. Well, at least that is the taste to my untrained palate.
If you don’t like the strong taste of cognac or brandy you may not like calvados. Yes, the apple tones are there but it is not as smooth as drinking cider. I happen to love the strong and warming effects of cognac and brandy, so to me calvados tastes fantastic! You may also think how much punch can apples carry anyway — beaucoup, a lot, so take your time with this apple drink. Sip and enjoy it. The best way to enjoy calvados is snuggled up with a good book.
Calvados can also be used in cooking, here are some great recipes to try.
- Braised Chicken with Apples and Calvados by Food & Wine
- Toffee Apple & Calvados Pancakes by BBC Good Food
- The Normand Fizz | Apple Ginger Calvados Cocktail by Gourmand In The Kitchen
- Braised Pork Loin with Calvados, Cider, and Apples by Phoo-d
- Calvados Camembert with walnut salad by Gourmantine’s Blog