One of the most crave-worthy flavors of the fall season is the fresh harvest of apples and pears. Eating them is delicious, but so is drinking them! Apple and pear brandies satisfy that autumnal craving by packing a concentration of orchard flavors. They also both act as wonderful digestifs and mix well into cocktails.
Keeping the doctor away
The most famous and well regarded apple brandy is Calvados from the Normandy region of France, where local apples — and pears, which are also sometimes used in its production — have been fermented into alcohol since the Roman era. There are three types of apple eau de vie that officially classify as Calvados and all are oak aged:
– Calvados AOC
The most prolific, single column-distilled style that covers all of Normandy, aged a minimum 2 years.
– Calvados Domfrontais
From the south, with 30% pear, giving it a fruitier flavor.
– Calvados Pays d’Auge
The alembic pot-distilled style that would appeal to fans of whiskey and other brown spirits for its pot-still richness and maturity.
Like sparkling wine is to Champagne, apple brandy can be made anywhere in the world. North America, which has a long history of making fruit brandy from the time of the first European settlers in the northeast, is certainly catching up, with some producers distilling apple brandies and apple jacks that even Calvados snobs can make peace with.
Similarly, pear brandy is made anywhere pears are grown, and American producers have taken cues from their European counterparts. One of the most sought after versions of pear brandy started in parts of Europe with cooler climates, where local pear varietals (most commonly Williams) are grown directly into bottles hanging from tree branches. The fruit is harvested bottle and all, and filled with brandy so the whole pear soaks it up and imparts its own flavors. Like apple brandy, pear brandy is produced in both unaged and oak matured expressions.
A few to try…
Laird’s Apple Brandy / Photo Source: MarketWatch
Christian Drouin VSOP Pays d’Auge Calvados
A top of the line expression that represents some of the best of the region.
Calvados LeMorton Reserve
Perfect for those looking for a quality bottle that won’t break the bank
Osocalis Apple Brandy
An American brandy made in the European tradition, but with its own, rich and playful flavors.
Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy 100 Proof
A go-to ingredient for many bartenders and great to sip neat too.
Copper and Kings Un-aged Apple Brandy
Packed with fresh apple flavors and mixes well in cocktails for a lighter touch.
St. George Pear Brandy
One of the products that put this West Coast distillery on the map, made with local pears and loaded with delicate nuances
Clear Creek Bartlett Pear Brandy
Another bartender favorite. This Oregon distillery also produces the pear-in-bottle version (if you’re lucky to catch them at the right time, they allow visitors in the orchard one day a year).
R. Jélinek Kosher Pear Williams
With the High Holy days upon us, this brandy is not only kosher, it’s delicious.
Clear Creek Bartlett Pear Brandy / Photo Source: Clear Creek
APPLE & PEAR BRANDY COCKTAILS
Here are three cocktails to mix with apple and pear brandies:
An Apple Tree Grows in Brooklyn
(Orion Berge, Peacock Alley, from the Waldorf Astoria Bar Book 2016 edition)
This apple-y riff on the classic Brooklyn cocktail, itself a variation of the Manhattan, hits all the right stirred and boozy notes for fall.
– 2 oz/60 mL apple jack (try Laird’s Applejack)
– 1 oz/30 mL extra dry vermouth
– .25 oz/7 mL China China Amer Liqueur (try Bigalet) or a Chinato (try San Francisco’s Tempus Fugit)
– .25 oz maraschino liqueur
– Garnish: lemon peel
Add all ingredients to a mixing glass. Next, add ice and stir for at least 30 seconds to properly chill. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon peel.
The Perfect Pear
(Marco Dionysos, via The PDT Cocktail Book)
The measurements of citrus hit in just the right places to flatter and highlight the flavors of the pear brandy in this adaptation of a Sidecar.
– 2 oz/60 mL pear brandy (try Cedar Ridge Pear Brandy)
– .75 oz/22 mL fresh-squeezed lemon juice
– .5 oz/15 mL orange juice (fresh-squeezed preferred)
– .5 oz/15mL simple syrup
Line half the rim of a cocktail glass with granulated sugar and chill. Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into the glass.
Left: Perfect Pear Cocktail, Right: The Pomme Pomme / Photo Sources: Liquor.com and Serious Eats
The Pomme Pomme
(via the London Telegraph)
Forget Mimosas, already! This is your new, more elegant and less acidic brunch cocktail.
– 1 cube sugar
– About 1 oz/30 mL apple brandy (try Clear Creek Apple Brandy Barrel Aged 2 Year)
– 2-3 dashes orange bitters
– dry sparkling wine (Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, etc.), very well chilled
– garnish: orange twist (optional)
Place the sugar cube in a chilled coupe or cocktail glass and soak it with the bitters. Pour in just enough apple brandy to wet all of the cube without drowning it. Stir to dissolve the sugar and top with chilled sparkling wine of choice. Finally, garnish with twist if desired.
All this talk of brandy is getting us thirsty!