If, like me, you start a meal with a preview of how it will end - in other words, scanning the dessert menu, then you will also most likely be a fan of the digestif. This French invention can be seen either as an aid to digestion or a jolly good excuse to sup some intensely soothing and complex alcohol. To my mind (and palate), nothing rounds off an evening meal more sweetly than by quaffing a fine single malt whiskey or brandy.
Calvados is an apple brandy from the northwest region of France known as Normandy. Normandy has been associated with apple orchards since medieval times, where cider continues to be distilled into cork-topped bottles of both sweet and dry varieties.
Calvados consists of a blend of sweet, tart and bitter apple varieties in varying ratios. It is then aged in oak barrels for a minimum of two years, although the more expensive brands can mature for up to sixty years – those sporting V.S.O.P and X.O. labels are usually accompanied by eye-popping price tags.
As with other types of cognac, the longer the Calvados is laid down for, the smoother the drink that emerges. A good Calvados should be effortless to imbibe: first, the palate enjoys the soft apple flavors; then the drink's magical molten sweetness suddenly creeps up and delights the back of your throat. It’s an unforgettable experience.
Since 1942, the “Appellation Controlee System” has protected the locality of this drink, a set of rules which protect and maintain the characteristics and quality of the product and its traditions.
Like other spirits, Calvados is chef-friendly, offering a multitude of uses in the kitchen. For example, you could add a twist on the classic banana flambé or Crêpe Suzette. A spoonful of apple brandy will bring a nice piquant enrichment to your chicken liver paté, or you could simply use it as a baste when roasting game, such as quail or duck.
Photo courtesy of MilkaS
and Cyclone Bill