How to make a Calvados Sour, the perfect cocktail to enjoy on a cozy autumn day

Ask the Oracle Pour: What should I drink today? All signs point to a Calvados Sour — drink in autumn while it lasts

By Erin Keane

Editor in Chief

Published October 10, 2021 11:59AM (EDT)

Calvados Sour (Illustration by Ilana Lidagoster)
Calvados Sour (Illustration by Ilana Lidagoster)

"The Oracle Pour" is Salon Food's spirits column that helps you decide what to drink tonight.

Things disappear. Take that bottle in your hand. It was there, and then it wasn't, though you don't remember passing over the open mouth of the garbage can without breaking stride and letting the ridged plastic slip through your slackening fingers, an act of both care and carelessness. You did that, didn't you? You must have. When you look down a moment later, having walked another block or more, your hand is empty, and you're not one to litter. Awareness of autumn can happen like that, too — summer slips away quietly, and suddenly it's a little foggy on your morning walk, a little darker in the evening, the degrees sliding away one by one off the day's high. A single red leaf no bigger than a baby's empty hand appears on the sidewalk. Then the trees dazzle the sky with so much color and blanket the ground with softness until one day you look up and there's Bash­­ō's solitary crow, perched on a bare branch, reminding you that endings are lonely if you let them be.

Winter and summer, times of extreme, can feel like they last forever. States of fullness or emptiness will do that. Spring and fall, on the other hand, blink by so fast precisely because the change around you is constant. If you don't take the time to notice, you can miss it. Likewise, cocktails for summer and winter are plentiful and designed to make the heat or the cold more pleasant, while fall, with its pleasing temperatures and riotous color palette, is already pretty damn delightful. That doesn't mean we don't want to appreciate the season with a cocktail that draws on its strengths. A cocktail made with Calvados — a distilled apple cider brandy traditionally from France's orchard-rich Normandy region — pays homage to the harvest season with a fresh, light flavor that can incorporate spice quite easily.

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To give yourself more time to be outside appreciating fall's beauty, keep it simple and make a Calvados sour. The sour is one of the most adaptable of cocktail families — all you need is a base spirit, lemon or lime juice and a sweetener. (Egg whites can be incorporated, but I'm going to skip them this time.) This recipe plays with the traditional sour building blocks a bit, but not by much. I used Roger Groult Calvados, a family company since 1860 located in the Pays d'Auge, a defined district within the larger Calvados region. It's lovely for sipping all on its own, but it also plays well with others. I paired it with Mathilde Poire, a distilled pear liqueur from Maison Ferrand (home of the excellent Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao), to keep with the French theme and give an extra dose of early autumn flavor.

Because those flavors are more mild than, say, a spicy rye, I recommend going for a mellow sweetener like a honey syrup, or as I used below, maple (but only if you have the real stuff, not an ersatz squeeze bottle — I happened to have a little bottle of Daniel's Organic, from West Virginia's Greenbrier Valley, on hand thanks to a friend's recent visit). I also dialed the lemon juice down from what I would use in, say, a whiskey sour, so it doesn't overwhelm the apple flavor. 


Serving size: One drink

  • 2 oz. Calvados 
  • 0.5 oz. pear liqueur 
  • 1 oz. real maple syrup 
  • 0.5 oz. lemon juice (freshly squeezed is best)
  • Cinnamon bitters
  • Cinnamon stick for garnish
  • Ice for shaking
  • One large ice cube for serving


You don't need any specialty equipment to mix a simple cocktail. Improvise with what you have. But here's what I keep at hand:


Shake the Calvados, pear liqueur, lemon juice, syrup and bitters with ice until chilled. Strain into rocks glass over large ice cube, garnish with a cinnamon stick and serve. 

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By Erin Keane

Erin Keane is Salon's Chief Content Officer. She is also on faculty at the Naslund-Mann Graduate School of Writing at Spalding University and her memoir in essays, "Runaway: Notes on the Myths That Made Me," was named one of NPR's Books We Loved In 2022.

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Calvados Cocktails Fall How-to Oracle Pour Recipe