Can someone contrast the flavor of Calvados (which I have) with Laird Applejack and Laird Bonded Apple Brandy? Are they roughly interchangeable in recipes? I'm assuming that Calvados is more expensive, but I can't have every bottle on hand and I'm hoping to try some of these Laird recipes with Calvados.
Without getting into a discussion of what is "better," (better is soooo subjective) let's first agree on the difference between Apple Brandy and Applejack.
Apple Brandy (and Calvados) is made from 100% apples and aged in wood. It has a more pronounced apple flavor and is smoother. A young brandy will have a fresher, fruitier apple quality, while an aged brandy will pick up notes from the wood - nutty, toasty, caramel, vanilla, etc. American Apple Brandy like Laird's or Clear Creek, is made from American Apple varieties and aged in American oak. Calvados is made from Normandy apples and aged in Limousin oak. It is really unfair to compare the two.
Laird's Bottled in Bond Apple Brandy is aged 7 years and bottled at 100 proof which will give you a totally different flavor profile.
Applejack is (now by law) a blended product, of roughly 35% aged apple brandy and 65% neutral spirits. It has a lighter apple flavor. Laird's is the largest producer of Applejack, and people sometimes continue to call any Laird's product (especially the bonded) "applejack," so confusion arises there.
You could probably substitute apple brandy in any cocktail recipe that calls for Applejack - it would just have a smoother, fuller, more pronounced fruity apple flavor.
I think most old-fashioned cocktails calling for Applejack or Apple Brandy, were intended to be made with a product like today's Applejack, not a fine Calvados or American apple brandy. Sugars and bitters were used to make a poor product more palatable. Now, of course, we have the luxury of using better spirits in our drinks by choice.
Personally, I can appreciate the old-school rough-around-the-edges profile of Laird's Applejack. And it's cheap. Why not give it a try side by side with apple brandy, neat and in cocktails, and report back?
It depends on the Calvados and Laird's variety in question. I currently have a bottle of Daron Fine Calvados, and I have three different Laird's products ("smooth blend", 7 1/2 year old brandy, and 100-proof BIB). The Daron is probably closest, along the Laird's spectrum, to the "smooth blend". Light apple flavor, not especially rich or complex, a lot of alcohol on the nose. The Laird's brandy and BIB version are both quite a bit more apple-y than either the Daron or Laird's blend, the brandy being smoother and more delicate and the BIB being over the top and in your face, and somewhat hot if sipped neat.
I know there is much older/better Calvados available than the Daron Fine, but I haven't tried it yet. From a cocktail point of view it's a nonissue, as I don't usually mix with liquors that cost upward of $50/bottle, and XO Calvados falls squarely into that category. On the lower end, there is no question in my mind that Laird's absolutely dominates the category in terms of flavor and value. The $30 bottle of Daron has around 25% as much flavor as the $20 bottle of Laird's BIB.
By the way, why can't you have every bottle on hand? Clearly you need to get your priorities straight and spend more time in liquor stores!
We use a lot of Laird's in cocktails and here's our take. We don't use Calvados for mixing. Cheap Calvados is generally not very good or flavorful for cocktails, and expensive Calvados is really not for mixing. You will get much more from Laird's BIB (the 100 proof apple brandy, says bottled in bond on the label, the label is black). We don't ever purchase the 80-proof Laird's applejack, since the BIB is so superior for mixing (because of the proof and the flavor). The BIB is perfect in a Jack Rose. Also, you just can't beat the price, I just bought a bottle for $17.99.
The Laird's 12-year is awfully good. We confess to having mixed with it, but it does deserve to be served straight.
Great recipes above btw!
watercress, We quote, with attribution. from the January/February 2010 issue of The Atlantic (magazien), article author, Wayne Curtis. Note the reference to the Corpse Reviver:
"Recently, I stopped by the Franklin Mortgage and Investment Company, a speakeasy-style basement bar in Philadelphia. I ordered a Diamondback, a beguiling mix of rye, chartreuse, and applejack served in a four-and-a-half-ounce version of a classic Nick and Nora glass. It was cold at the beginning, cold at the end, and delightful all the way through. Alex Day, the beverage manager, has been looking through antique bar guides. He told me he’s intrigued by recipes for even smaller drinks, such as the original Corpse Reviver, consisting of brandy, apple brandy, and dry vermouth—'something very small, with a big burst of flavor, like a little pick-me-up,' he said."
Which Apple Brandy did you get? Lairds make several. It would be a shame to mix the 12-year old.
There are actually two variations of the Diamondback.
The original is from The Lord Baltimore Hotel and is ...
1 oz rye
1/2 oz Lairds 100 proof Apple Brandy Bonded
1/2 oz yellow Chartreuse
Stir with ice and strain. Mint garnish.
Note the use of Lairds apple BRANDY, and YELLOW Chartreuse.
The variant is from Murray Stenson, and was recently published in Imbibe magazine.
1-1/2 oz. rye whiskey
3/4 oz. Laird's Applejack
3/4 oz. green Chartreuse
Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Cherry garnish.
It is nice to hear that Mr Day is attempting to educate the public on the proper size of a cocktail. Too many bars are still serving cocktails in 10-12 ounce martini glasses, which is a shame - your drink will be warm before you can finish it. Like Mr. Day says, a cocktail should be a little pick me up, 10 to 12 sips, all icy cold. Harry Craddock, bartender at the Savoy in London, said that the best way to drink a cocktail was "quickly, while it's laughing at you."
Mention the Corpse Reviver and most cocktail enthusiasts will think of the more popular Corpse Reviver #2 - Gin, lemon juice, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc, with absinthe rinse.
The lesser known, original Corpse Reviver is...
2 oz Brandy
1 oz Applejack
1 oz sweet vermouth
Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
Try a Jack Rose, too. A very well-known drink.
2 1/2 oz Laird's Applejack
3/4 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz grenadine
Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Lemon twist garnish.
The better the grenadine the better the drink. Use homemade pomegranate grenadine.