Cognac and Calvados—a Perfect Fall Sipper

As the weather turns colder, our thoughts turn to dark spirits, and the kind of weighty, substantial cocktails you want to spend a little time with. Refreshing is out; complex and rewarding are in. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with turning to a classic like the Manhattan or Old Fashioned when you’re looking for a stiff whiskey drink. But if you’re looking to branch out beyond bourbon and rye? Consider “The Aristocrat,” from Primrose in Las Vegas—a beautiful union of Cognac and Calvados.

Modeled after a French country home with Provence-inspired gardens, Primrose has an obvious affinity for anything from the country. “When you think of rich French spirits, you think of Cognac,” says Dana Hostmeyer, the assistant general manager at Primrose. “So we took Cognac and three other beautiful French spirits, and married them into one soft and silky cocktail.”

When it comes to aged spirits, Americans tend to be much more familiar with whiskies than brandies, but given Primrose’s French theme, it made sense to reach for two of the country’s finest spirits—the fine grape brandy Cognac and apple brandy Calvados. To help marry these to barrel-aged spirits, the team at Primrose uses Lillet Blanc, a light and lively wine-based aperitif. Finally, the classic herbal liqueur Bénédictine contributes a layered complexity.

”With equal parts on all of the ingredients, they playfully balance each other as you enjoy the cocktail,” according to Hostmeyer. “The apple and nutmeg complement the honey and citrus notes, while the bitters accent the spice notes from the barrel aged spirits.”

And thanks to that equal-parts formula, it’s a simple drink to scale up if you’re looking to make a whole round for friends. Hostmeyer recommends the Aristocrat as an elegant nightcap, which seems just right—rich, complex, and just a little unusual.

The Aristocrat

An apple slice, along with grated nutmeg, make for a beautiful fall garnish. At Primrose, they take a feather-like plume flower and stick it into the apple; if you want to try your hand at flower garnishes, have at it.

With almost all of the ingredients in equal parts, this drink is easy to make in batches. To make four, use a small pitcher rather than a mixing glass; combine three ounces of each ingredient, plus eight dashes of bitters; and use plenty of ice, giving the drink a good long stir. Have your garnish and glassware at the ready before stirring the cocktail, so you can serve it right away. 

3/4 ounce Cognac (recommended: Hennessy VS) 

3/4 ounce Calvados (recommended: Daron Calvados) 

3/4 ounce Lillet Blanc

3/4 ounce Bénédictine

2 dashes of Angostura bitters

Garnish: apple slice (lemon juice squeezed on top to preserve color) and freshly grated nutmeg

Instructions: Combine all ingredients except garnish in a mixing glass with ice. Stir until very well chilled. Strain into a coupe. Garnish with an apple slice, and grate nutmeg on top. 

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