This calvados sour takes the classic, simple tart and strong formula and gives it a fresh, slightly autumnal twist. It has a lovely balance of flavors including apple, citrus and a little spice. It also lends itself to further tweaks for an even more seasonal sip.
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In recent months, sours have very much been my drink of choice. Generally, I make a classic but if I have some flavored simple syrup, I love variations on the idea like my pumpkin spice whiskey sour and related drinks like my ginger whiskey smash.
Most of the time, I go with whiskey as the base, but I do like to change things up now and then such as with mezcal. I felt like adding some more variations to my repertoire and this one is nicely different with a slight autumnal vibe from the apple-y flavor.
What is a sour cocktail?
Sours are a group of cocktails that are very much considered classics. They are a combination of a spirit, sour element (usually in the form of lemon juice but can be other citrus) and a touch of sweet (usually simple syrup but can be honey, agave etc).
You traditionally shake the ingredients with ice to chill and dilute them slightly. Some also shake the mixture with egg white to give a foamy finish and you may add a couple drops of bitters.
The first known written recipes were in The Bartender's Guide by Jerry Thomas in 1862 but it's unknown exactly how old the drink really is.
Some credit the British Navy with inventing it (or at least popularizing it) thanks to their combining rum rations with lime (citrus was used to help fight scurvy). Rum worked better than beer for long journeys as it didn't spoil. And it was readily available from then British colonies in the Caribbean.
You can make a sour with pretty much any spirit and even liqueurs. Whiskey is probably the most popular in the US at least these days, but that has not always been the case - it was brandy for a while. And you'll find many variations around, from amaretto sours to the Peruvian classic pisco sour. Then there's this lesser-known version.
What is calvados?
Calvados is an apple brandy from the Normandy region of France. To take the name calvados, it must be produced in Normandy from local apples (and sometimes some pears). It also needs to be aged in oak for at least two years.
The spirit starts with apple juice that's fermented then distilled and finally aged in casks. The end flavor profile can vary quite a bit, in part due to different apples but also different fermentation and aging.
You'll find the spirit in a range of ages from young to highly aged. Generally, more aging means more complexity of flavor and spice. It also typically means a smoother finish as well. Some well-aged calvados are as coveted as a good cognac or malt whisky.
But many like the more obvious apple flavor in younger varieties as well, especially for cocktails. American apple brandies also come unaged, often called eau de vie which have a more distinctly apple flavor.
Making an apple brandy sour
While I've made this with a young calvados, you can change this to a more aged version or also use an American apple brandy. Each will bring a slightly different flavor. I think lemon is the best citrus here but the sweet element is definitely open to playing around with.
A plain simple syrup is the classic, but maple syrup would also pair well as would infused syrups. You can definitely get creative, and ones to try might be pumpkin spice syrup, cinnamon or ginger syrup and likely others. All these will help up the autumnal feel of the drink, though you may taste the apple-y-ness a little less.
Egg white is optional, but it does add that nice foamy top and an element of texture to the drink as a whole. Bitters, too, are not necessarily needed, but a couple drops of aromatic or orange bitters do add something.
In all cases, shake everything together with ice to chill and gently dillute. Then you can either serve over ice or serve straight up if you prefer. I like to decorate the glass with thin slices of apple but it's not needed, of course.
This calvados sour is a lovely variation on the theme of this easy, classic cocktail. It has a nice balance of bright flavors, slight sour edge combined with a slight freshness and gentle apple undertones. It's definitely one to to try for that something slightly different without a lot of effort.
Try these other easy cocktails:
- Blackberry bourbon smash
- Lillet spritz
- Paper plane cocktail
- Passion fruit margarita
- Plus get more cocktail recipes in the archives. And to make use of your calvados, try my apple brandy hot toddy, too.
- 2 fl oz calvados (or other apple brandy)
- 1 fl oz lemon juice
- ½ fl oz simple syrup
- ½ fl oz egg white (optional)
- 2 drops bitters either aromatic or orange, optional
- a few paper-thin slices of apple (optional) and ice
- If serving with apple slices in glass, cut a few paper-thin slices of apple and lightly brush them with the cut edge of a lemon to help stop them browning. Place the slices around the side of a glass (they should stick a little but if not, add ice to the glass at this point to help them stay in place.
- Add calvados, lemon juice, simple syrup and egg white to a cocktail shaker. If using bitters, you can either add them here or simple use to top the drink. Add plenty of crushed ice and shake well then strain into the glass - I suggest over ice but can also serve as-is.