Calvados is an apple brandy made in the Normandy region of France.
It is available as either a bottled distilled product or as a distillate which is then diluted with water before bottling.
The final brandies are at least 40% alcohol by volume, although many are marketed at 43–46%.
Calvados is also produced in the area around Aube, with several different product varieties.
While Calvados is usually served as an apéritif or after-dinner drink, it is also used in cooking.
It can be included in some cocktails and is also used as a base in some kinds of bitters.
If you cannot find Calvados or do not want to use them because of expense or taste, read on for five substitutes for this classic apple brandy.
What is Calvados?
Calvados has a rich and aromatic flavor widely known and appreciated in the culinary world.
It has a long history deeply rooted in French culture and tradition dating back to the 15th century A.D. when the apple brandy was first distilled at Monasteries.
The “eau de vie” (literally translated as “water of life”) is made from the distillation of fermented cider and has a minimum alcohol content of 40%.
Calvados is produced mainly in the lower Normandy (Normandie) and upper Brittany (Bretagne) regions of France.
Calvados is one of many French eaux de vie.
Others include Armagnac, Cognac, and Slivovitz.
Each has its unique flavor profile obtained from the different fruits used during fermentation.
When mixing Calvados, it is important to consider their mild flavor.
Some recipes that use Calvados are Baked Alaska, Boston Cream Pie, and Applejack Rabbit.
Calvados has a rich, complex flavor with notes of wood, fruit, spices, aniseed, caramelized sugar, or vanilla, depending on the aging process.
The 5 Best Substitutes for Calvados
Due to their unique flavor profile, Calvados is an essential ingredient in many French desserts.
Often, it can be difficult to find or expensive, which can serve as a roadblock for some chefs.
However, several substitutes mimic Calvados’ woody and fruit taste at a fraction of the cost.
The following are 5 of the best substitutions for Calvados.
1 – Applejack
Applejack is a type of liquor that has been around for more than 200 years.
It is made from hard apple cider, fermented twice to get rid of the water.
The product is then stored in wooden casks to settle and mellow over time.
Applejack is rather strong, with an ABV (alcohol by volume) content of about 25 – 40%.
The result is a smooth golden-brown spirit with a fruity yet dry flavor.
It’s often recommended as an alternative to Calvados for those who enjoy apple-flavored spirits.
Applejack is still rare, so your best bet is trying at top cocktail bars in larger urban centers.
2 – Armagnac
Armagnac is a type of brandy that originates from the southwestern tip of France.
It is distilled in the Armagnac region, hence its name.
This particular brandy has been produced since the 15th century.
The alcohol content for this drink must be at least 54%.
The former has a much sweeter taste when comparing apple brandy and Armagnac.
This is because it’s distilled from fermented apples – while Armagnac is made from grapes and pears.
The flavor profile of apple brandy is not that dissimilar to Calvados, except for one distinctive difference: It can be rather acidic.
Armagnac, on the other hand, is a bit more complex.
It has a strong aroma and a pleasantly dry finish.
Each brandy possesses a velvety texture with hints of nuts and fruits.
3 – Apple Juice or Apple Cider
If you are in desperate need to make a recipe that calls for Calvados, but cannot find it anywhere, then apple juice or apple cider is the next best thing.
Apple juice is available in most grocery stores and supermarkets around the world.
It may be used instead of Calvados in any recipe.
Apple juice can provide a similar fruitiness that can be found in Calvados.
However, apple juice is not as strong, and the flavors will be slightly subdued.
Hence, you may want to consider using apple juice or cider if your recipe requires low-alcohol content.
4 – Apple Butter
Like apple juice and apple cider, Apple butter is an alternative if you want a less powerful product.
It’s a culinary spread used on bread, biscuits, and more.
Apple butter has a strong flavor profile due to spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg.
Furthermore, it is made from apples that have been cooked down to create a thick and creamy consistency.
Apple butter can be used as an alternative to Calvados if you add it to sauces and marinades for meats and vegetables.
It can also be used in baking applications, such as apple desserts or pies.
5 – Pear Brandy
Last but not least is pear brandy.
Pear brandy is most common in European countries, France, Italy, and Spain.
It goes by many different names depending on the region where it’s produced, such as Poire Williams in France and Mirabelle in Germany.
The good thing about pear brandy is that it’s much easier to find than apple brandy.
Price-wise, it is generally cheaper, but the flavor profile may not be as intense.
Pear brandy has a fruity flavor with notes of honey and spice.
It is usually distilled multiple times before being bottled.
The result is an amber-colored liquid with a stronger flavor than apple brandy.
Calvados is a strong apple-flavored distilled spirit that can provide many benefits to your dishes and beverages.
However, it is hard to find and expensive if you buy it from an actual liquor store or bar.
Fortunately, there are five substitutes for Calvados that will help you achieve the same flavors without shelling out too much money.
These include applejack, Armagnac, apple juice or cider, pear brandy, and apple butter.
The best substitute for Calvados will depend on applying the drink or dish that you are making.