As a bartender I'm embarking on a new challenge: trying to make delicious drinks with only a few ingredients, without sacrificing depth of flavor. Inevitably, during a service I'll be told "make me whatever you think is good", or something to that effect. More and more lately, I've been reaching for Calvados when this happens. It's funky, it's nutty, it's fruity, and it serves as a wonderful substitute for gin in the classic Negroni cocktail (equal parts with sweet vermouth and Campari). So what is Calvados? Well, it's essentially apple cider from Normandy that's been distilled. First, the harvested fruit is pressed and fermented to get to the point of cider. After the cider is distilled, we have what's called an eau-de-vie. After a minimum two years of aging in oak casks, it can legally be called Calvados. Some of the best Calvados I've had have been in the 6-15 year age range. These are great for sipping as well as mixing. Next time you head down to your local Vine Arts to add a bottle to your collection, consider Calvados. For a great cocktail base, try the Pere Magloire VS ($46 all-in). If you are looking for something a little more special to sip on, the Pierre Huet 8 year old Calvados, a young a fruity apple brandy fermented in 100 year old oak barrels, is a great place to start ($85).
1 part Calvados
1 part Gin
1 part Campari
Lemon twist garnish
To make the Calvados Negroni, stir equal portions of Calvados, Sweet Vermouth, and Campari over ice. Strain into a chilled coup or rocks glass and garnish with a lemon twist. Sometimes the best cocktails are the simplest. Cheers!