Apricot Brandy is a spirit infused with apricot flesh and kernels and added sugar. Originally, brandy was used as the spirit, but, today, that is not necessarily the case, with the liqueur potentially being based on neutral grain spirit or vodka.
Apricot Brandy is also the term for Apricot Eaux-de-Vie (i.e. spirit distilled from apricots), but it is very unusual for a cocktail recipe to call for this type and so this is not the focus of today’s post.
Apricot Brandy has been appearing in cocktail books since at least the beginning of the 20th Century, with brands such as Bols, Garnier and DeKuyper being specifically mentioned in books. By the mid-1930s, books tended to include several cocktail recipes calling for this ingredient.
The 1862 edition of Jerry Thomas’ “How to Mix Drinks” or “The Bon Vivant’s Companion” provides recipes for Apricot Water and Apricot Ratafia (forebearers of modern Apricot liqueurs), as well as Brandy Apricots, but this seems to be more of a means of preserving the fruit than a way to produce liquid for consumption. Thomas does, however, use Peach Brandy in a number of cocktails.
Abricota was another Apricot Liqueur (although seldom made with brandy) and Garnier made Abricotine, which included the flavour of almond in addition to apricot.
DeKuyper XO Apricot Brandy
DeKuyper XO Apricot Brandy follows on from the success of their XO Cherry Brandy and is designed to be “one of the finest Apricot Brandies in the world”. In terms of ingredients and its bottle, it is, indeed, luxurious.
The liqueur uses untreated apricots from Turkey for extraction, as well as extracts of some famous apricot varieties: Rouge the Roussillon and the Bergeron from France. The apricots are blended with 10 year old Grande Champagne Cognac (Charente) and a Single Cask Pot Still Rum from Guyana.
DeKuyper XO Apricot Brandy is bottled at 28% ABV.
1) On its own
Nose: Rich, jammy apricot, which reminds me of fresh apricot jam, plus a little hint of vanilla and hints of wood at the end. Superb.
Taste: The flavour immediately fills your mouth: a great, fresh, succulent and jammy apricot, almost as if you have the flesh of the fruit in your mouth. After this, there’s the light flavour of grapes and a hint of oak from the underlying brandy. Sweet, but not too syrupy, this had a silky smooth texture; it had the viscosity, sweetness and fruitiness of a liqueur, but combined with a dryer, more complex flavour of a fruit eaux-de-vie on the finish. I also thought this had more personality and depth than your average Apricot Brandy.
2) Coronation Variation
[40ml Italian Vermouth, 40ml Dry Vermouth, 30ml Calvados/Applejack, 10ml Apricot Brandy. Stir.]
This was a drink with a few different personality traits: warm, tart apple from the Calvados, bittersweet herbal notes from the vermouth, and an apricot jamminess from the Apricot Brandy. All of these flavours were perfectly balanced in this drink, creating a smooth, easy-to-drink cocktail with a lot of character.
[60ml Dry Gin, 20ml Calvados, 20ml Apricot Brandy. Stir. Garnish with a cherry.]
Another Calvados and Apricot Brandy cocktail; not that this is much of a surprise, given how well the two work together. There is a stone-fruit aspect to the Calvados and its dryness balances well with the sweeter Apricot Brandy. To try and keep this great dry/sweet balance, I decided to use a homemade cocktail cherry. This was a neat cocktail, where the importance of each individual ingredient is well felt. Lovely!
4) Milwaukee Cocktail
[40ml Rye Whiskey, 10ml Apricot Brandy. Stir. Garnish with a green cherry.]
This is a simple cocktail, but one where the Apricot Brandy is particularly important; although they are in equilibrium with one another, the brandy really brings out the fruity notes in the whiskey. Although I’m not 100% sure of the significance of the green cherry, I have been amused by the double-take of friends to whom I have served this cocktail.
5) Colonel Cocktail
[30ml Bourbon, 10ml Apricot Brandy, 10ml Grapefruit Juice, 5m Sugar Syrup. Shake.]
The flavours of the bourbon and the Apricot Brandy are very complementary of each other and I think that further investigation into this pairing would be beneficial; perhaps a Bourbon Old Fashioned with the Apricot Brandy in place of the sugar syrup?
Rich and fruity, this is delicious and rather rousing to the appetite.
6) Aviation Variation
[40ml Dry Gin, 10ml Lemon Juice, 5ml Maraschino, 5ml Apricot Brandy. Shake.]
The drink starts off with the usual flavours you would expect from an Aviation, sweet and tart with a refreshing edge, but where the flavours would usually move on to the sweet floral lift courtesy of the creme de violette you are met with some deep, jammy fruity notes form the apricot as well as a touch of almond which works well from the cherry stone fruit flavours of the Maraschino.
7) Apricot Crush
[25ml Apricot Brandy, 50ml Soda Water, a dash of Lemon Juice.]
This is a good way to lengthen the drink without masking the finer flavours of the liqueur. The dash of lemon juice stops the drink from becoming too sweet. Very refreshing, but with that rich apricot jamminess constantly in the background. Delicious.
8) Spruce Goose
[35ml Dry Gin, 20ml Cocchi Americano, 5ml Apricot Brandy, 2 dashes Dandelion & Burdock Bitters. Shake.]
This is a dry Martini with a touch of sweet jamminess from the Apricot Brandy. The choice of Cocchi Americano gives you some more bitterness and also a bit more citrus than regular vermouth. The Dandelion & Burdock Bitters help to pull the drink together with hints of wintergreen and hint of the classic British soft drink.
9) Charlie Chaplin
[20ml Gin, 20ml Apricot Brandy, 20ml Lime Juice. Shake.]
For me, this was reminiscent of a White Lady, with a similar tartness and a clean, citric edge. How it differs is that underlying the drink is a deeper sweetness with hint of apricot jam and almond. I thought it was delicious and particularly well-suited as an aperitif.
10) Charlie Lindbergh
[50ml Dry Gin, 40ml Lillet Blanc, 5ml Apricot Brandy, 1 dash of Orange Bitters. Stir.]
This is a wet Martini with an added complexity from the Apricot Brandy. Without this and the bitters, it would be rather dull, but these allow its development into a very notable drink. When mixing this particular cocktail, I think it’s important to ensure that your Apricot Brandy isn’t too sweet.
I’ve enjoyed having a look at this liqueur and the cocktails that you can use it in. I found that using a fine product like DeKuyper XO Apricot Brandy made a huge difference to the more sophisticated cocktails. From my research, I was also intrigued at how many of the drinks that I mixed seemed to be inspired by events of the 20’s and 30’s, a period of history that I have something of an affinity to.
My favourite drink was the Coronation Variation, although the Apricot Brandy was just as delicious on its own.
DeKuyper XO Apricot Brandy is avaialble for around £30 for 50cl from The Whisky Exchange.