Guide to Calvados – the drink and the place

Written by on September 8, 2018 in Normandy, Wine and Drinks

Calvados is both a place and a drink. It is a department that lies in the heart of Normandy and includes amongst its many jewels the pretty harbour town of Honfleur, swanky Deauville, and the port town of Caen, capital of Calvados as well as William the conqueror’s last home town.

This area is known as the garden of Paris, rich in fruit, vegetables, fish and meat products. It’s also home to some of the best apple orchards in the world from which Calvados the drink is made…

Normandy Eau de Vie

They’ve been making cider in Normandy for centuries and from cider comes Calvados, a sort of apple brandy known as a “drink fit for kings and farmers alike”.

The first official reference regarding cider distillation in Normandy was described by Sir Gilles de Gouberville in his diaries on 28 of March 1553.

Four different types of apple are grown in Calvados – sweet, bitter sweet, bitter and acidic – the perfect combination for cider. To create Calvados, the cider is distilled twice creating eau de vie. The liquid is matured in wood barrels and blended. The result is a strong and rather subtle taste that can blow your socks off.

One of the best known and most important Calvados producers is Pere Magloire, founded in 1821. Their range includes several bottles of differing ages and you’ll find Calvados easily in shops in France as well as overseas.

The Calvados Experience

You can find out all about Calvados at the Calvados Experience, part museum, part show. This brand-new experience opened in 2018 at Pont-L’Eveque on the site of France’s oldest and most famous distillery.

It’s a celebration of and homage to Calvados and I really don’t want to spoil it by giving too much away but this is a fully immersive “experience” with some awesome special effects. One minute you’ll find yourself in a centuries old Norman town on a misty morning listening to bird song, peeking at a farmer and his rosy cheeked wife picking apples. The next minute you’ll find yourself watching an apple mountain tumble and fill the air with the scent of crushed apples. It’s very artistic and very well done, educational as well as fun, telling the history of Calvados – and it’s quite a story.

The Calvados Experience is great for the whole family and there’s a tasting included in the visit (though not for kids) and a very smart shop selling Calvados and cider products plus a picnic area and a café on site.

calvados-experience.com/en – you can take the tour in eight languages.

Calvados Cocktail Competition

Normandy folk love Calvados so much that each year they hold an International Calvados cocktail competition with a different theme, for instance in 2018 competitors had to include a vegetable element. It’s an event that’s taken seriously with entrants from around the world flying in to participate. They are the winners of best bartender competitions from countries like Russia, UK, Estonia, Sweden, Finland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy and Poland as well as of course France. Student bar tenders also take part. And, if you thought Calvados was just for drinking neat with ice, you couldn’t be more wrong, it makes an excellent base for cocktails.

The competition has been emceed for several years by possibly the world’s most famous bartender, the legendary Colin Field of the Ritz, Paris. “Hotel bars are where it’s at these days” he says. He’s seen Calvados make a splash and move into the sexy world of cocktails and says he’s been working with it since 1982 – always ahead of his time.

In days of old Calvados was a popular tipple with coffee in the morning – and at night. In fact, it’s still drunk this way in some places. But these days it’s far more popular mixed with all sorts of things to create the most delicious cocktails. In Normandy they take their mixes seriously. The International Calvados Cocktail Competition is fun but surprisingly sober, winning is a serious business.

“A good bartender can make the reputation of a bar”, says Colin, “they’re a representative who can convert a bar’s attitude with their deft mix, gift of the gab and their image”.

Next time you’re in a bar – ask for a Calvados cocktail and prepare to be surprised…

Look out for next year’s contest in Calvados, entry is free to the public: www.calvadosnouvellevogue.fr/

And if you’d like to try your own Calvados cocktail at home, this one from renowned producer Père Magloire is a knockout:

Pere Magloire Summer Punch

4 cl of Calvados Père Magloire
2 cl of Pommeau Père Magloire
4 cl of orange juice
2 cl of mango juice
1 cl of strawberry syrup
Serve with ice and a slice!

Tags: ,

Related Articles

Boutique wines from France – available in the USA

SomMailier.com is a wine club which brings you boutique wines from France that you won’t find in supermarkets – authentic, delicious and unique. Wine has been called “artwork you can drink” and when it comes to the French wines chosen by Laurent Yung of SomMailier.com you’ll discover exactly what that means. Using his knowledge and […]

Continue Reading

The best tours of Normandy | Visit like a local not a tourist

Normandy is a land of lush meadows, gorgeous beaches, bucolic countryside, picturesque villages, grand monuments and historic sites. It’s famous for its apples and cheese, delicious gastronomy and friendly people. It is the perfect place to get to know real, authentic France and there’s no better way to do that than with a local guide […]

Continue Reading

What to see and do in Manche Normandy

What to see and do in Manche Normandy

Written by on September 10, 2019 in Normandy

The majority of people who arrive at the port of Cherbourg in La Manche in Normandy, hit the road and head south. Or the Loire Valley, or somewhere else. Sometimes they stop at Mont Saint-Michel en route, and who can blame them, it’s one of the most famous sites of France. But, this Norman department […]

Continue Reading

How to make French Crème de menthe

Neon green and more a syrup than the cream the name suggests – crème de menthe is a favourite in France where it was invented by a pharmacist called Emile Giffard. He worked as a dispensing chemist but he was also a gourmet and was intrigued by the digestive qualities of mint. In 1885 he […]

Continue Reading

The best boutique French wines in the USA

Nothing beats going to a French vineyard and enjoying a tasting, then taking home some delicious French wine to enjoy at leisure. But it’s not always possible to do that, especially if you’re in the US. Luckily for you, SomMailier wine club brings the very best boutique French wines direct to you. Delivered right to […]

Continue Reading

Subscribe

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed

Comments are closed.

Top