The Calvados Cocktail


You might be wondering what calvados has to do with this Mixology Monday’s orange theme, but a closer look at this ‘calvados’ drink reveals the name to be something of a misnomer. Just a third of the drink is calvados, with the remainder comprised entirely of things orangey.


Predictably, there is orange juice. There is also a generous measure of Cointreau adding its own sweetly concentrated orange perfume. No surprises so far. The presence of a whopping three quarters of an ounce of orange bitters is somewhat unexpected though. That’s right. The orange stuff that these days is lucky to be added to cocktails as a drip here or a drop here, the dusty bottle that long ago vanished from everyone’s Martinis, comprises 1/4 of the liquor in this drink. On an orange themed day a drink like this demands a bit of attention.


I had long ago noticed recipe for a drink called a Bluejacket on Ted Haigh’s cocktailDB site. That drink called for two parts gin, one part Curacao, and one part orange bitters. Reading that recipe I assumed it meant the potable orange bitters from Holland, which is said to be more a liqueur than a cocktail bitters. A drink containing one fourth orange bitters just didn’t seem credible otherwise. I ignored it and browsed on until I found something else.


However, on coming across the Calvados Cocktail in Ted’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails I realized there was a bit more to this ‘using orange bitters as a significant cocktail ingredient, not just as a flavor’ thing. Besides the fact that Ted’s judgment on these things is pretty good, I recently happened to have made a couple of Angostura Bitters heavy drinks, namely the Alamagoozlum Cocktail and an Angostura Fizz. By ‘bitters heavy’ I means that the bitters is measured in fractions of an ounce rather than the usual drops or dashes. I had heard of Angostura Bitters being drunk during Prohibition owing to the fact that it had a high alcohol content and remained legally available. I guess I’d imagined people choking back vile Angostura Bitters flavored concoctions out of desperation. The thing was, when I made these Angostura heavy cocktails they were good. If Angostura Bitters, why not orange biters?


The Calvados Cocktail is as follows:


1 part calvados

1 part orange juice

½ part Cointreau

½ part orange bitters (I used Fees because I figured its relatively mild flavor would work well in a recipe calling for such a large dose)


Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Ted Haigh notes you might like to consider reducing the quantity of bitters used depending on brand. I took the plunge and added the full measure. Using Fees I think it tastes fine like this, but Fees is fairly mild and I like bitter tastes. Depending on your brand and tolerance for bitterness you might want to cut back to start with. You can always add more later if you think the drink needs it.


This is a spectacular drink. Surprisingly it retains its calvados character despite all the orange bitters. Of course it goes without saying that the drink is also massively and bitterly orangey. I guess you could compare it with the Negroni, but it is less sweet, less herbal, and perhaps more refreshing. Making it with Fees orange bitters there is a strong background taste of some Indian spice that I can’t seem to name right now. With a different brand of bitters I’m sure the flavor would be radically different – and quite possibly not very pleasant. Using Fees though this is a very unusual and tasty drink.


If you have Fees orange bitters handy you definitely owe it to yourself to give this one a try. If you use some other brand then a little experimentation could yield pleasant results.

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