It usually takes me years to find a new alcoholic drink I really enjoy. However, last week something magical happened as I came across two new beverages that tantilised my taste buds and left me wanting more. And best of all, these two delicacies are produced right here in Normandy!
My first revelation came while I was strolling around FENO in Rouen. A huge annual trade fair, FENO celebrates ‘Made in Normandy’ products and brings together hundreds of regional businesses, entrepreneurs, artists, farmers, inventors and citizens, all committed to producing and investing locally. Smack bang in the middle of the calvados apple brandy section stands, a blue stand grabbed my attention. The bottles on display looked gorgeous, and the name on the labels, ‘Double Jus’, was intriguing. Judging by the word jus, this had to be some sort of non-alcoholic calvados. As I mused this to myself, the friendly Double Jus team approached me to tell me a bit more about the new spirit. …
Double Jus is a Calvados-based craft aperitif with a lower alcohol content (23%) and a sweeter, softer taste. It is made using only local apples, with no added sugars or fragrances, and is aged in oak barrels. It somehow manages to retain the distinctive flavour of Calvados without its intensity (which some can find too strong) and boasts fresh, tangy apple juice, that combines with the apple brandy to create a new Norman drink.
Now, I can already hear many of you saying ‘this sounds like Pommeau’, but no, Double Jus is stronger in both alcohol and taste! Following local custom, a hint of Belize Rum is also added to enhance the fruity flavour, a technique dating back to when Le Havre was Europe’s largest port for rum. In a nutshell, Double Jus is truly delicious, and the flavours of the iconic tarte tatin apple pie spring to mind as soon as the aperitif touches your taste buds. Smooth and complex on the palate, reminiscent of baked apple, caramel and vanilla, it’s a great alternative to classic brandy.
The brand behind this simple but surprising drink, 30&40, was founded by a group of three friends from Normandy whose aim was the reinvent the classic Norman brandy and introduce it to a younger audience. With its modern bottle, trendy name, smooth taste and clever marketing, Double Jus certainly ticks all the boxes. It is already proving popular in London where it can be found in several fashionable bars and pubs. The spirit is perfect on the rocks or in cocktails such as ‘Le Spritz de Normandie’ (Double Jus, tonic, a slice of lemon and a sprig of rosemary).
The second of my two new favourite Norman drinks is the latest creation by Eric Tourain, the acclaimed cellar master of the iconic Palais Bénédictine in Fécamp. I tasted this drink for the first time last week, on the same day that I discovered the Palace’s stunning new cocktail bar. Simply called ‘1888’, in reference to the year this beautiful building opened its doors, the spirit is a blend of classic Bénédictine liqueur and cognac, which ages for a few months in French oak barrels. With notes of citrus and lemon, enriched with delicate aromas of angelica, vanilla, and honey, the palace’s newest offering is a sweet yet characterful beverage that will delight Bénédictine newbies and connoisseurs alike.
I personally love Bénédictine, but quite frankly I wasn’t expecting to be surprised by this new creation. I tasted the liqueur first on the rocks and then mixed with grapefruit juice, and can honestly say that both experiences were heavenly. Undoubtably the most refined herbal elixir ever produced by the Palais Bénédictine, 1888 is a true sensory experience that leaves a lasting impression. The best place to enjoy this gem is in the palace’s brand new cocktail bar, La Verrière, which opened just a few months back. Chic, trendy, colourful and spacious, it’s a fantastic addition to one of Normandy’s finest buildings. You can also buy a whole bottle of the liqueur at the palace’s on-site shop or order online.
For more information on food and drink in Normandy, visit the Normandy Tourism website
Cover photo © Palais Bénédictine / Bacardi-Martini France / 30 & 40®
Text and all other photos unless otherwise stated © B. Collier