COGNAC 2010

CHEERS ON COGNAC

An interview on cognac in cocktails and at the bar.

I was recently invited by the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC) to visit Cognac for the COGNAC SUMMIT 2010 and many of the Cognac houses, including, Pierre Ferrand, Hine, Hennessy, Remy-Martin, and Courvosier.
We did daily tastings of many cognacs from bland mixtures of regional grapes to perfectly aged and crafted cognacs showing off the essence and heart of what cognac really is.

We were also invited to reinvent some classic cognac cocktails with a new or creative touch. The Sidecar, Sazerac, Alexander, Mojito, Stinger, and julep were improvised by some of the best in the business from the US and Europe. The recipe for the Mojito No. 3 follows.

I am from Wisconsin where the folks drink brandy in all their Manhattans and Old  Fashioneds. While they are generally not what one would call haute cocktails crafted by creative mixologists for the most part, it does point out the wonderful array of choices for using brandy, specifically cognac, in great cocktails.

Good cognacs contain flavors and aromas of vanilla, almond, caramel, wood, fruits, stone, to name just a few. Those flavors along with a touch of sweetness make cognac amazing to mix with aromatics like vermouths, bitters, and fruits of all kinds. Particularly great with fruit, cognac has long been used as a base for liqueurs like pear and orange (Grand Marnier) and in early cocktails like the Crusta.

A more recent classic, the Side Car, uses lemon and orange. Amazing variations on that theme could incorporate pear, ginger, peach, apricot, passion fruit…the list is nearly endless.

 Another great fruit use in cocktails/coolers is in sangria. A white sangria variation that I use includes a lot of cognac to steep the fresh cut fruit that we will put in the sangria. This allows the cognac and fruit to share flavors and essences with each other and create something unique in the process. Fresh juices, a good solid dry white wine, like an albariño, and an orange liqueur and you have a special summer cooler!

As a basis for preserving fruit like cherries,  cognac is perfect. Again you end up with the fruit and cognac sharing with each other their flavors and essences creating something amazing in the process. A cherry cognac that you can use in cocktails and cooking, and cherries that you can use in the same things.

A general rule is that you don’t use a very fine cognac for infusions and cocktails. Generally speaking that is true. For soaking fruit for a sangria, you would not want to use anything more than a VS. The VS is perfect for such fun and inexpensive summer drinks and doesnt overpower the fruit and white wine. They are supposed to be accessible, young, vibrant and unpretentious. VS is the perfect choice for many drinks; generally fruit based.

Cocktails:  Side Car variations, Crusta variations, Juleps

When making a cognac Manhattan, though, you will usually want to use a quality VSOP.  More depth of flavors and aromas can stand up to the bitters and vermouth and create a masterful cocktail.

Cocktails: Old Fashioned, Sazerac, Stinger, Alexander, Hot Toddy

COGNAC MANHATTAN
3 parts VSOP COGNAC
1 Part Italian Vermouth
Bitters to taste
*2 Cherries
Serve up or on the rocks…either way this drink should be stirred and strained into a chilled cocktail glass or over ice in a rocks glass. Use large cubed ice if possible for slow melt.
Variations are using different brands or styles of vermouth and bitters. Blends of Whiskey and Cognac.
* Cherries can be made in many ways. I have a different recipe for homemade cherries that I use for cocktails that I will post. Also you can just take fresh sweet cherries, pit them, warm them in cognac on the stove in a saucepan. Add to jar(s) and top with cognac. They keep well all winter for your cocktail and dessert enjoyment.
COGNAC OLD FASHIONED
2 oz VSOP COGNAC
Bitters to taste
Rich Simple Syrup to taste
Lemon and Orange Peel Disc
Press orange and lemon disc into syrup and bitters to release oils and flavor.
Add cognac and add large cubed ice. Stir.
Chill and serve in chilled rocks glass, ala sazerac or over fresh ice in an old fashioned glass
COGNAC ALEXANDER
2 oz VSOP Cognac
1 oz QUALITY CREME DE CACÃO
1 oz HEAVY CREAM
Hard shake all ingredients and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Fresh grate nutmeg garnish.
Variations. add Nut liqueurs, Benedictine, amaretto, orange liqueurs, grated cinnamon
MOJITO No. 3
This cocktail is the variation I worked on at the Cognac Summit 2010 with Ago Perrone, Sasha Petraske, and Kerrin Egalka and others. It turned out fantastic. The funky, pungent addition of arrak really lends to a balanced and aromatic cocktail.
2 oz VS COGNAC
6-8 FRESH MINT LEAVES
.5 oz RICH SIMPLE SYRUP
.5 oz FRESH LIME JUICE
.5 oz FRESH GRAPEFRUIT JUICE
.5 oz SWEDISH PUNCH or ARRAK…you could also use Pusser’s British Navy Rum
Muddle mint in syrup in rocks glass. Add juices to glass and fill with ice. Add cognac and pour into shaker tin. Hard fast shake. Return to rocks glass. Top with soda if desired
VOILA!!!

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