Fruit eau de vie is sort of an interesting category for me. I work as a bartender at a sort of upscale (high quality and expensive food, wine, and cocktails; but no dress code) restaraunt in a medium-sized fairly conservative college town. When we opened back in January, the bar had on display bottles of Poire William and La Captive Calvados, both with captive fruit in the bottle. By April or March we had gone through 4 bottles of the pear and two or more of the calvados. Since then we have moved none
. The bar manager is irritated by this and asks why we arent selling the stuff. Well, aside from these beverages being highly seasonal tipples in my mind, they are something that can only sell themselves -- once (well, not the calvados, except I don't think that particular one is very good). People see fruit, especially things like pears or whatever, and expect it to be sweet, and it's not at all. It also does not have the characteristic mellowness of wood-aged spirits, and the funk of straight-from-the-still liquor can be an acquired taste. Couple this with the fact that people try to drink poire william warm in a snifter, like brandy, and you get very few repeat calls for the product (fwiw, I prefer this one cold). The novelty of such products will sell themselves to customers, just like it sold itself to the management (they do make nice display pieces). Anyways, that, basically, sums up why I think fruit eau-de-vie is not a big seller in the US (also often expensive).
Now in cocktails I think they are very interesting. At home I have a sweetened version of poire william (Brizard) as well as an imported kirsch (cant get the Trimbach
), barak palinka, Brizard Apry and a few others. The trick with apricot brandy in the old recipes is that you can rarely be sure wether thay are talking something like Apry or something like barak palinka. Indeed, this seems to have even confused contemporaries. The Hotel Nacional Special in Baker unambiguously calls for dry apricot brandy, 1 tsp, essentially an aromatic accent. However, all recipes or variations for this drink on cocktaildb.com indicate the use of liqueur, which then becomes the sweetening agent. This makes for a disgustingly sweet concoction and so then other recipes omit the pineapple juice and switch to slightly drier white rum. The drinks are now alltogether unrelated, essentially a slightly floral apricot daiquiri that is still most likely going to be too sweet, from the original pleasantly complex and more balanced version.
What I like to do, especially in recipes like the Claridge, where the sweetness level allows, is to try it with both. Sometimes it then becomes obvious which was meant, and sometimes you find that they both have merits. It is fun though.
PS: A couple of months ago at a Glenrothes tasting even I had an opportunity to taste some straight-from-the-still single malt scotch, at around 65-70% abv. If it had just been handed to me to identify I probably would have guessed kirsch. It's interesting how eau-de-vie of all kinds taste so similar. It seems that the barrel brings out their true personalities.