Applejack and Calvados: Fall's Signature Spirits



To read Derek's recipe for La Vie Antérieure, a cocktail combining apple brandy and rum, click here.

I've been waiting for fall since last winter. Fall is my time of year; crisp air and colorful foliage—the warmth of wrapping yourself in a snug sweater but not yet having to bundle in cavernous coats—it all appeals to my aesthetic sensibilities. But more important is the harvest. I love apples. Apples are one of the most wonderful and alluring fruits, both deceptively indulgent and seemingly erudite. The apple represents humanity's loss of innocence, everyday health, and academic excellence. Further proof of its symbolic renown: I'm writing from a laptop adorned with an apple.

The first sip of alcohol I ever had was an apple-based beverage, applejack. Not the professionally made kind, which happens to be the United States's first spirit, but the primitive kind. The kind where you allow honest-to-goodness apple cider to ferment and freeze it, and then the remainder is a higher proof of alcohol—a process known as "jacking." My older brother had left the fermented cider in the freezer. It was his science project, let's say. Curious, I drank it.

Rather than being cursed with work and the pangs of childbirth, which is already our lot as humans, I found a lifelong love affair with apple brandy. Calvados, which is from Normandy in France, rates among the most excellent of apple brandies, although an old adage says that the best Calvados isn't sold. Meaning that it's traded among farmers. As I alluded to, Applejack is an American apple brandy mixed with neutral spirits in its base form but also sold as 100-percent apple brandy in smaller batches. Laird's virtually holds the monopoly on American applejack production, but many smaller brands producing apple brandy are appearing throughout North America. Chief among these is made by boutique cidery Michel Jodoin from Quebec. His eight-year-old XO apple brandy, aged in used barrels, has the elegance of a fine aged brandy with a fresh bite of apples. Its versatility in cocktails is astonishing.

Whatever apple brandy you choose, in honor of my favorite season I've created a great recipe to straddle the divide between warm days and cool nights: a recipe suitable for a scarf or not, increasing your knowledge and healthfulness while indulging your senses.

Recipe: La Vie Antérieure