detail of an alcoholic beverage on black backgrounddetail of an alcoholic beverage on black background
©detail of an alcoholic beverage on black background|Igor Normann -


Normandy’s eau-de-vie

AOC Calvados is an eau-de-vie obtained by distilling cider and/or perry. This Normandy spirit has three protected designations of origin: “Calvados”, Calvados Pays d’Auge” and “Calvados Domfrontais”. Find out how they make this popular drink – famous for the “trou normand” custom of taking a glass between courses to aid digestion.

How Calvados is made

The first stage is to make cider for calvados making, which is known as “cidre de chauffe” – cider intended only for distillation. According to the AOC regulations, there are then either one or two distillations.

 Cider for calvados making

The choice of cider apple varieties used for calvados is important, otherwise you can end up with an alcoholic drink that is too sweet. This is why the mix includes apples that are sweet, bitter-sweet, bitter and acidic.

However, Calvados Domfrontais AOC, must be distilled from a cider made with apples from the area around Domfront and at least 30% perry pears.

The fruit is hand picked and pressed to obtain the wort, which is then fermented. After six weeks, this has turned into cider.


This stage consists of separating the alcohol and water, which boil at different temperatures, using a column or pot still. The alcohol vapour is then liquefied to give a high alcohol content liquid: eau-de-vie.

Two techniques are used for distillation: single and double. Calvados AOC and Calvados du Domfrontais are both made using one distillation in a column still, which makes a 72% ABV eau-de-vie straight away.

Calvados Pay d’Auge, however, requires a double distillation in a pot still. The first distillation allows the “heads” and “tails” (which contain compounds that are less useful to the final eau-de-vie) to be discarded, retaining only what is known as the “petites eaux” which are between 28% and 30% ABV. The second distillation of the “petites eaux”, known at “la bonne chauffe”, produces a 72% ABV eau-de-vie.

How Calvados is aged

According to the AOC regulations, AOC Calvados and Calvados du Pays d’Auge is aged for at least two years and AOC Domfrontais for three and only in oak barrels. The interaction of the eau-de-vie with the air and the tannins in the wood contributes to the creation of the calvados. Over time, the flavours deepen and the colour strengthens from pale yellow to deep brown.

In contact with air through the wood, the amount of alcohol and volume of the calvados itself diminishes through natural evaporation. This vapour is nicknamed “the angels’ share”. The youngest Calvadoses release aromas of fresh apples where as those that are aged the longest have more complex notes such as cooked apples, honey, spices, walnuts, chocolate or coffee.

The master blender will then create different blends using spirits of different ages and from different orchards. These blends are perfected over several months before being bottled. Once bottled, the calvados no longer continues to age.

How to serve calvados

An old calvados that has aged for 10 to 20 years is served neat at the end of meal, often accompanied by an espresso, or as an aperitif. A young calvados of 2 to 3 years is best enjoyed over ice as an aperitif, mixed with tonic or in cocktails. The “trou normand” is a tradition that consists of drinking a small glass of calvados between courses in a large meal to aid digestion and revive the appetite.

This traditional Normandy spirit goes perfectly with cheese, chocolate, desserts, cream and ice-cream. Calvados is also used in various traditional dishes from Normandy alongside apples, prawns, veal and chicken. It is also used for flambéeing, marinades and deglazing or a splash may even be added after cooking.

Excessive drinking is dangerous for your health. Drink in moderation.