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Sunday, September 25, 2022
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The taste of fall in a glass.

When The Jewish Link asked me to come up with cocktails for autumn, I almost instantly knew that I wanted to write about cocktails made from Calvados. Calvados is a distilled apple cider, often blended from dozens of different apple varieties, which is aged in oak barrels for no less than two years, but often for much longer. Typically, Calvados is lightly sweet, and has flavors and aromas redolent of fresh and baked apples, with spices.  When bottled, young Calvados can be as fiery as a young whiskey, but when well-aged it can be as smooth and supple as a fine cognac. At its best, Calvados has an innate ability to warm the body and put a smile on the face, making it a perfect autumnal tipple.

Calvados’s antecedents can be traced back to Charlemagne, the eighth-century King of the Franks and Holy Roman Emperor. During his long reign, Charlemagne perhaps spent more time in the field of battle creating his empire than among his French subjects; The welfare of his native France was always a special concern for the emperor. Many of his ordinances have had a profound and lasting effect on the French people. 

One of Charlemagne’s lesser-known acts was an ordinance requiring all the farms in Normandy to grow apples. In the nearly 1,300 years since Charlemagne’s reign, Normandy has been conquered and reconquered many times—by the Vikings, the French, the English and the Germans—and through it all Normandy has had its apples—lots and lots of apples. By the 16th century, some of Normandy’s more industrious farmers were distilling the cider of their excess apples, and thus Calvados, that most delightful of apple brandies, was born.

While well-aged Calvados is best enjoyed by itself in a snifter, younger Calvados can make for a very versatile cocktail ingredient—the apple and spice flavors of Calvados can play well with a number of juices and liquors. I personally like to use V.S.O.P. Calvados (usually aged four to six years) in cocktails, but V.S. or Fine Calvados (usually aged two to three years) can also be successfully used in cocktails. 

Below are three of my favorite autumnal cocktails, all of which are perfect for the chagim and beyond. 

 

The Calvados Cocktail

To misquote a popular idiom, this cocktail likes combining apples with oranges, and what a tasty combination it is. First found in the pages of Harry Craddock’s “Savoy Cocktail Book” (1930), this cocktail combines the apple and spice of Calvados with three forms of orange—orange juice, orange liqueur and orange bitters. While many cocktails will use a dash or two of orange bitters, few use as much as a full tablespoon of orange bitters. All of those bitters up the warming-spice quotient of the Calvados, resulting in a cocktail that is like a chilled, orangey, mulled cider. Craddock’s original recipe is enough for a party of six. I have reduced the recipe to a single serving.

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons Calvados
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon Cointreau
  • 1 tablespoon Angostura Orange Bitters
  • A strip of orange peel, wrapped tightly around a chopstick for a minute to give it a curl, as a garnish (optional)

Directions:

➀ Fill a cocktail glass with ice water in order to chill it.

➁ Add all of the liquid ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake well. 

➂ Discard the ice water from the cocktail glass. 

➃ Strain the contents of the shaker into the glass, and garnish with the orange peel curl.

 

The Apple Sidecar

The Sidecar is one of a handful of classic cocktails to emerge in the years following the First World War. The (original) Sidecar is a simple but surprisingly elegant and sophisticated potation composed of cognac, lemon juice and orange liqueur. There are a number of different, competing claims for the invention of the Sidecar; some place the invention in Paris, others in London, and still others in the South of France. Whoever actually invented it, by 1922 it was being widely served in Europe’s cocktail bars, and had found its way into more than one bartenders’ guide. Legends claim that the drink was invented for a customer who traveled in a motorcycle’s sidecar and requested a cocktail that would warm him up.

The Sidecar has long been a favorite of mine, and several years ago, while a guest at a friend’s home, I was offered a Sidecar (an offer that I’d never turn down). It was a very good cocktail, but it was clearly not a Sidecar. I asked him what I was drinking, and he explained that with the price of kosher cognac so high, he likes to make his Sidecars with Calvados instead. It’s a brilliant idea and produces an elegant appley-citrus sour cocktail.

 

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup Calvados
  • 2 tablespoon Cointreau
  • 1-2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (see note below)

Directions:

➀ Fill a cocktail glass with ice water in order to chill it.

➁ Add all of the ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake well.

➂ Discard the ice water from the cocktail glass.

➃ Strain the contents of the shaker into the glass.

Note: More than almost any other cocktail, the amount of citrus needed in a Sidecar is very much dependent on the exact base spirit used. As Calvados (and cognac) can vary greatly in sweetness, the amount of lemon juice you need to balance the cocktail can also vary. Start with 1 ½  tablespoons on your first attempt and adjust either up or down on subsequent cocktails based on your palate.

 

The Apple Hot Toddy 

Should one find oneself in need of a truly warming cocktail (perhaps in the sukkah on a particularly cold night), try an apple hot toddy. The following recipe is adapted from the world’s first cocktail guide, Jerry Thomas’ 1862 book, “How to Mix Drinks or the Bon Vivant’s Companion.” While his recipe calls for white sugar as the sweetening agent, I prefer my apple toddies to be sweetened with honey, and in particular I like to use a rich varietal honey such as heather honey, thistle honey or sourwood honey.

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup Calvados
  • ½ tablespoon honey
  • 1 apple
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • Nutmeg

Directions:

➀ Core a Roma, Cortland or Granny Smith apple and bake it in a shallow baking dish at 375 F for about 30 minutes.

➁ Quarter the apple, and place one quarter into a glass mug along with the honey and Calvados. Add the boiling water and stir until the honey is dissolved.

➂ Then grate a little nutmeg on top.

 Notes on kashrut: There are many differing opinions regarding the kashrut of Calvados.  While some kashrut authorities consider all Calvados to be kosher, others only consider certain brands to be kosher, and others still require formal kosher certification. 

If seeking Calvados produced with kosher certification, there are two readily available brands: Calvados Coquerel, which is certified by the OU; and Calvados Boulard, which is officially considered kosher without certification by the Kashruth Authority of the London Beth Din (KLBD), by the Grand Rabbinat du Bas Rhin Beth Din de Strasbourg, and by the Consistoire de Paris.

Cointreau is produced under the supervision of the Federation of Synagogues (UK)—bottles are not marked as kosher. Angostura Orange Bitters are produced under the supervision of the Orthodox Union.

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