Cognac. The misunderstood spirit.
When you think of Cognac, several things may come to mind. It’s what old people drink. Or it’s what the rappers drink. You are probably familiar with its mother, brandy, its sister, Armagnac, and second cousins twice removed – grappa and pisco.
What is Cognac, exactly?
Cognac is a type of high-quality grape brandy that must be properly distilled in the Cognac region of Western France; just southwest of Paris and north of Bordeaux. Some of my favorite white grape varietals are those used in Cognac. Trebbiano producing most, followed by Folle Blanche and Colombard.
VS, VSOP, & XO
There are several different levels of classification that differentiates types of Cognac. VS (Very Special/Superior) must be aged for at least two years in oak casks. VSOP (Very Special/Superior Old Pale) must be aged at least four years in oak casks. And lastly, XO (Extra Old) aged at least six years in oak casks.
Probably the most popular of cognacs, at least from my experience, is Hennessey. Shit. Back when I was younger, we would shoot down shots of henney like it was candy. Lil Wayne rapped about it. So, it must be cool. But cognac is much more beautiful than just a caramel colored shot. Cognac produces a plethora of aromas; that can fit into any season at all. One cognac may have prominent characteristics of toffee, cigar box, truffle, dried fig and mushroom. But another can taste of lilac, menthol, apricot and banana.
Cognac is traditionally enjoyed as either an aperitif or a digestif. However, its complex aromas make it so that it is the perfect addition in a cocktail. Personally, nothing strikes the inner “Mad Men” inside of me than sitting on the porch, sipping a nice and chilled cognac that has been excellently paired with a cigar.
If you are looking to explore into the world of Cognac, I suggest going out and buying a bottle or two. Test the waters of one of the most delectable wine-based liquors of the world. Hennessey, Martell, Remy Martin, Courvoisier, and Camus are the most easily accessible brands.
If it is a cocktail that you desire, might I recommend starting with the classic Sidecar. A tart combination of Cognac, Cointreau, lemon juice and simple syrup. Personally, I enjoy combining cognac with red vermouths for a simple creation.
Here’s some recipes for you to try at home! Cheers!
2 oz Cognac
½ oz Cointreau
¾ oz lemon juice
¼ oz simple syrup
* Shake all ingredients with ice, then strain into a coupe and garnish with a lemon twist
2 oz Cognac
¾ oz sweet vermouth (I like to use Lillet Rouge with Cognac)
2 dashes orange bitters
* Stir ingredients with ice, strain into a Nick and Nora, garnish with an orange peel
*please drink responsibly*