The legendary bon viveur Douglas Harrison explores the very seriously delicious business of drinking calvados, which the New Yorker journalist A.J. Liebling described as “the best alcohol in the world!”
The apples are now ripening beautifully in the Pays d’Auge of Normandy, to once again provide a harvest of fine fruit, thereby ensuring a continuation in the flow of delicious quality Calvados. In this issue of Boisdale Life I am concentrating on the pleasure of drinking Calvados and, believe me, there are more ways to enjoy this nectar than simply sipping a glass after a meal.
Let me begin with that most popular first drink of any event, the Cocktail. Cocktail lists are very extensive these days and an army of committed experts toil away, forever creating new recipes. For some reason, Calvados has not figured highly in this activity but that is changing! One good example of why, is the “Calvados Royal”:
- 3cl of Calvados Lecompte 5 years old
- 2cl of Strawberry Liqueur
- 10cl of Champagne (or sparkling wine)
In a coupe, strain the strawberry liqueur and the Calvados. Complete with Champagne
Another option is the straightforward Calvados on the Rocks. Three or four cubes of ice and then simply pour in your Calvados. You will find all the delightful flavours remain for you to savor and you’ll probably be amazed at just how smooth and satisfying a drink this is.
On to Calvados with food where the first thing which always springs to my mind is ‘Le Trou Normand’ – a centuries old tradition translated as, The Normandy Hole! It is a small tot of fine Calvados taken partway through a meal, bringing two benefits to the diner: firstly, it aids the digestion of what has already been eaten; secondly, the greater benefit, it sharpens the appetite for what is still to come. Hence the name… it creates a hole in the stomach for the next dishes to fill.
If we continue with our Normandy- style dinner, Calvados can again make a valuable contribution to the cheese course, particularly if serving the Coeur de Camembert au Calvados, aka Calva d’Auge.
The normal Camembert, made from pasteurized cow’s milk, has its rind delicately scraped off before being immersed in Calvados for between 3 and 5 hours. After due soaking, it is coated with fresh breadcrumbs and walnuts to protect its new nutty, rich and intense flavour. At this point, I would like to digress slightly to explain a little known fact about Camembert. It was France’s first national cheese.
In true French style, after the cheese comes the dessert and this is the opportunity for one of my all time favourites – Tarte Tatin. Nothing accompanies this dish better than a glass of old Calvados. The beautiful apple flavours in both combine to produce something far greater than the sum of the parts, something so harmonious and satisfying that it borders on the sensual – you just have to try this.
Calvados makes its ultimate appearance as the digestif to enjoy with one’s coffee and, as it’s the grand finale, it has to be the grandest Calvados. For me, that means Le Secret, the creation of Lecompte Cellar Master Richard Prével. In 2008, he was tasked with creating the most extraordinary, the most perfect and the most complete Calvados ever made.
During the course of this quest, he made an amazing discovery; he found several old barrels which had lain in a corner of one of their cellars since Maison Lecompte was founded in 1923. This timeless treasure provided the finishing touch to an already exceptional blend and thus, after five long years, Richard completed his task. All that remained was to hand fill the handmade crystal carafes which had been specially commissioned to hold this most precious of spirits; a fine ritual on which to conclude his unique task. After such an achievement, one can only ask Quo Vadis Calvados?
Tuesday 24th October
Calavados Tasting in Belgravia 6pm
Calvados Dinner in Mayfair 8pm
Wenesday 25th October
Calvados Tasting in Bishopsgate 6pm
Calvados Dinner in Canary Wharf 8pm
Richard Prével, Cellar Master of Lecompte will be presenting their entire range of Calvados and answering your questions. If you would like more information please email: firstname.lastname@example.org