By now, you’ll know that Cognac sales are going through the proverbial roof. Anyone who’s anyone is sipping on the stuff with fervour, and we’re not just talking Russian oligarchs and American rappers. The tastemakers of the drinks industry are backing this historic spirit with exuberance, curating unparalleled bottle libraries and championing the spirit in cocktail menus across the globe.
“Cognac is a must-have ingredient in any bar because of its versatility,” says Joe Hall, bartender at Satan’s Whiskers in London. “When the appropriate Cognac is used, it really can have something for everyone. Everyone is aware of its sipping qualities, but its capabilities in light and refreshing drinks are relatively unexplored. Everyone in the know is looking forward to Cognac’s evolving prospects.”
So much so, that bars dedicated to Cognac (Luciole, in the spirit’s namesake town) and, more generally, ‘forgotten’ French spirits (Le Syndicat in Paris; Coupette in London) are cropping up, reviving and modernising classics such as the Sazerac, French 75 and Sidecar with their own twists and pushing the boundaries of how the tipple has historically been enjoyed.
While top bartenders usually have a whole host of experimental tools at their disposal to create tinctures, infusions, bitters, distillates, concentrations, hydrosols, atomised sprays, gels, powders, foams – and, well, you get the picture – there are many delicious cocktails that don’t require such complex, science-y processes in their creation.
The Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC) has developed six Cognac cocktails that can be recreated easily at home – and what better time of year to hone your drink-making prowess than the festive season? It’s time to get stuck in.
Cognac cocktails for all…
Method: Put the Cognac and the liqueur into a Champagne flute and fill with the chilled Champagne. Garnish with the raspberry.
Ingredients: 40ml Cognac, 10ml fresh lemon juice, 10ml triple sec, 5-6 ice cubes, 1 slice orange peel
Method: Place the ice cubes in the shaker with the Cognac, lemon juice and triple sec. Shake well. Strain into the glass using a cocktail strainer and press the orange peel over the drink.
Ingredients: 60ml VSOP Cognac, 2 dashes Angostura bitters, 10ml sugar syrup, 4-5 sprigs of fresh mint, 4-5 ice cubes (crushed)
Method: Lightly muddle one sprig of mint with the sugar syrup in the bottom of a highball glass. Remove and discard the mint. Fill the glass with crushed ice and add the Cognac, stirring well with a bar spoon. Garnish with the sprigs of mint.
Cognac Old Fashioned
Ingredients: 60ml Cognac, 4-5 dashes Angostura bitters, 1 white sugar cube, 1 dash soda water, 4 ice cubes, 1 twist of orange peel
Method: Place the sugar cube in the base of an Old Fashioned glass. Soak with the bitter and a dash of soda water, then crush the sugar with the back of a bar spoon. Add one third of the Cognac and two ice cubes and stir well. Add another third of the Cognac and one ice cube, and stir well. Repeat with the remaining Cognac and ice cube and decorate with a twist of orange peel.
Ingredients: 40ml VSOP Cognac, 60ml traditional lemonade, 4-5 ice cubes, 1 long strip of cucumber peel, 1 strip of lime peel, 4 thin slices of ginger
Method: Place the lime and ginger slices in a glass. Add the VSOP Cognac. Lightly press the lime and ginger 2 to 3 times using a muddler. Half fill the glass with ice. Stir well for 5 seconds using a bar spoon. Add the traditional lemonade and the cucumber peel. Stir well for 5 seconds using a bar spoon.
Ingredients: 50ml Cognac, 10ml orange curaçao, 2 dashes Maraschino liqueur, 2 dashes Angostura bitters, 10ml fresh lemon juice, 1 long spiral of lemon peel
Method: Prepare the glass by crusting the rim with fine caster sugar. To do this moisten the rim with lemon juice and dip it into a saucer filled with sugar. Put all of the ingredients into a shaker filled with ice, shake, then strain into the prepared glass. Garnish with a long spiral of lemon inside the rim of the glass.
One last thing – if you’re not quite clear on the difference between VSOP and XO (or you’d rather sip than shake) we’d invite you to head over to this link and scroll down to the rather helpful ‘what to drink’ guide. Chin-chin!