What is Calvados?

A Guide to the French Apple Brandy

Calvados is a type of brandy that originates from the Normandy region in France.

It is made from fermented apple cider and has a rich history dating back to the 16th century. Unlike other popular French brandies such as cognac and Armagnac, calvados is made exclusively from apples, although it can also be made from pears or a combination of both.

Calvados is a protected designation of origin (PDO) product, meaning that it can only be produced in the Normandy region of France. The apples used in the production of calvados are carefully selected and must be grown in the designated area of Normandy.

Calvados has a unique flavor profile that varies depending on the aging process and the type of apple used in its production. It is often described as having a fruity and floral aroma with a hint of vanilla and spice and notes of apple, caramel, and oak.

Calvados is typically enjoyed as an after-dinner drink or as a key ingredient in cocktails.

What is Calvados?

Calvados is a type of brandy that is named after its home region in Normandy.

It is made from apple cider, and sometimes pear cider or perry, that is distilled into a clear, colorless eau-de-vie.

The eau-de-vie is then aged in oak barrels for a minimum of two years, but often much longer, to create a smooth, complex spirit with a rich, fruity flavor and aroma.


The history of calvados can be traced back to the 16th century, when the Normandy region of France began producing cider from its abundant apple orchards.

Over time, cider makers began experimenting with distilling their cider into a stronger, more concentrated spirit, which they called eau-de-vie.

By the 19th century, calvados had become a popular drink in Normandy and beyond, with many small distilleries producing their own unique versions of the spirit. In the early 20th century, however, the industry was hit hard by the phylloxera epidemic, which destroyed many of the region’s apple trees and forced many distilleries to close.

Today, calvados is produced by a small number of large distilleries and a larger number of small, artisanal producers, who continue to use traditional methods to create their spirits.

Production Process

The production process for calvados begins with the selection of apples, which can come from a wide variety of different apple trees, each with its own unique flavor profile.

The apples are harvested in the fall and pressed into juice, which is then fermented into cider.

The cider is then distilled into eau-de-vie using a pot still or column still, which separates the alcohol from the water and other impurities.

The resulting eau-de-vie is then aged in oak barrels for a minimum of two years, although many producers age their spirits for much longer to create a more complex flavor profile.

During the aging process, the eau-de-vie takes on the flavors and aromas of the oak barrels, as well as the other spirits that may have been aged in the same barrels before it.

The longer the spirit is aged, the more complex and nuanced its flavor profile becomes.

Once the aging process is complete, the calvados is bottled and sold, either as a blend of different vintages or as a single vintage. Some producers also create flavored calvados by infusing their spirits with fruits, spices, or other ingredients.

Types of Calvados

Calvados is a type of brandy that is made from apple cider or pear cider.

There are three main types of calvados: Fine, Pays d’Auge, and Domfrontais. Each type has its own unique characteristics and flavor profile.


Fine calvados is the youngest and most basic type of calvados.

It is aged for at least two years in oak barrels and has a light, fruity flavor. Fine calvados is typically used in cocktails and as an ingredient in cooking.

Pays d’Auge

Pays d’Auge calvados is made from apples that are grown in the Pays d’Auge region of Normandy.

It is aged for at least two years in oak barrels and has a rich, complex flavor with notes of vanilla and spice. Pays d’Auge calvados is often enjoyed as a digestif.


Domfrontais calvados is made from a blend of apples and pears that are grown in the Domfrontais region of Normandy.

It is aged for at least three years in oak barrels and has a unique, fruity flavor with a hint of earthiness. Domfrontais calvados is often enjoyed as an aperitif.

How to Enjoy Calvados

Calvados is a versatile spirit that can be enjoyed in different ways.

Here are some serving suggestions and cocktail recipes:

Serving Suggestions

Calvados can be enjoyed as a digestif or an aperitif. It is typically served neat at room temperature, but it can also be used as a base for cocktails or mixed with other ingredients.

Here are some suggestions for serving Calvados:

  • Pair it with fresh fruits like peaches, pears, apricots, prunes, grapes, or apples.
  • Use it as a dessert ingredient, such as in apple tarts or crumbles.
  • Enjoy it with seafood, poultry, or roasted meats.
  • Try the Trou Normand, a Normandy custom that involves sipping a small glass of Calvados between courses to cleanse the palate.

Cocktail Recipes

Calvados can also be used in cocktails to add depth and complexity.

Here are some cocktail recipes that showcase the spirit:


Calvados is a unique type of brandy that is made from apple cider rather than wine. It is named after its home region in Normandy, France, and is known for its distinct apple flavor and aroma.

Calvados can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, including as an aperitif, blended in drinks, between meals, as a digestif, or with coffee. It is also a popular ingredient in many cocktails, adding a touch of fruity sweetness to classic recipes.

When it comes to choosing a bottle of calvados, there are many factors to consider, including the age, the type of apple used, and the region where it was produced.

Some of the most popular brands include Boulard, Christian Drouin, and Roger Groult.

Overall, calvados is a versatile and delicious spirit that is worth trying for anyone who enjoys brandy or other types of distilled spirits.

Its unique apple flavor and aroma make it stand out from other types of brandy, and its long history and tradition in the Normandy region of France give it a special place in the world of spirits.

Please drink responsibly, be fully accountable with your alcohol consumption, and show others respect.

Written by Lauren McKenna

Lauren is a soon to be Temple University graduate. Her love of travel has introduced her to food and drinks from all over the world. She provides MyBartender with a global view of all things alcohol.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

GIPHY App Key not set. Please check settings

four glasses of different kinds of wine

A Guide to Gluten Free Wine

label on bottles of chartuese

What is Chartreuse Liquor: Origins, Flavor Profile, and More