How Bartender Himanshu Desai Gifts Rémy Martin XO

This holiday season, celebrate with the very best: Rémy Martin XO.  The signature Cognac of Rémy Martin cellar master Baptiste Loiseau is an opulent blend of hundreds of eaux-de-vie that expresses its delicate aromas and full potential as an aperitif and neat or on the rocks, or even when mixed into an Old Fashioned. 

Aside from its potable possibilities, the complex spirit has another utility: It makes a perfect gift for the holiday season. To explore that option, we’ve enlisted the aid of Himanshu Desai, who serves as the beverage director for a modern, upscale Indian restaurant in Houston.

Rémy Martin XO

Desai, who formerly worked as the beverage director for a Mumbai-based restaurant group, earned the distinction of being the first Indian bartender to compete in the Rémy Martin Bartender Talent Academy when he entered the competition in 2018.

 “Rémy Martin is the most prestigious Cognac on the planet,” says Desai. He was familiar with the brand prior to entering the competition, but participating in the Bartender Talent Academy gave Desai the chance to visit Cognac and the site of the spirit’s creation.

“I completely witnessed, from the vineyard to the bottle, the whole process,” he says. “I was used to serving Rémy Martin from behind the bar, but I never knew how special it is until I was actually in Cognac.”

After viewing what differentiates Rémy Martin in the category firsthand — such as its insistence on only making Cognac from fine Champagne grapes — Desai returned to India with a newfound appreciation for the spirit.

“After that, there was no looking back for me,” he says. “I tell people that I may be biased when it comes to Rémy Martin, but it is absolutely delicious. If I’m behind the bar and someone wants to drink Cognac, it’s Rémy Martin by default because it changed my life for the better.”

When Desai says that it altered his life, he’s not being hyperbolic. After his second-place finish in the international cocktail competition, he was recruited to work as a bartender in the U.S. He earned a work visa that allowed him to relocate to Texas in 2020.

In his new life, Desai has embraced Rémy Martin XO as a go-to gift during the holiday season. To cite one specific example, Desai says it’s something he’d give to his friend Peter Nolan, proprietor of Houston’s Permission Whiskey bar.

“Every time Peter and I meet in the wintertime, we’ll sit by the fire with a bottle of Rémy Martin XO, and we’ll always have a cigar in our hands,” he says of their preferred relaxation method. “So, if I’m going to gift that bottle during the holiday season, it has to be to Peter Nolan.”

However, that’s not to imply that the giftee must be a seasoned Cognac sipper. Instead, Desai believes that gifting Rémy Martin XO is an excellent way to introduce those who may otherwise not be familiar with Cognac to the category. 

“It can also be a really good gift for somebody who doesn’t drink Cognac neat because a lot of people — including bartenders — have that stereotype or perception that Cognac is supposed to only be drunk neat or during the winter,” Desai says.

And while Desai’s preferred method of enjoying Rémy Martin XO is either neat or mixed into an Old Fashioned, he recognizes its versatility in cocktails and recommends it as a gift for mixology-minded friends and family.

“There is one regular at Musaafer, every time he comes in the last drink of his dinner has to be an Espresso Martini with Rémy Martin, because he loves that,” Desai says of Rémy Martin XO’s utility in cocktails. “I’m not going to say [whether] you should just have it neat or not. Because it’s so versatile — it has so much to offer as a spirit.”

That versatility extends to Rémy Martin XO’s ability to provide a different experience depending on what it’s paired with, whether that be cheese and charcuterie or cigars and chocolate. In Desai’s thinking, such pairing possibilities help to make Rémy Martin XO a more personalized gift.

Rémy Martin XO

“If you want to give a bottle of Rémy Martin XO this holiday season, you might want to gift them a box of dark chocolates on the side or a fine cigar,” he says. “That’s going to create a stronger impact because then you’re not just giving them Rémy Martin XO. You’re also telling them what you would prefer them to have Rémy Martin XO with and that will change their perception of Cognac as a whole.”

Lastly, there’s a way to give Rémy Martin XO that doesn’t involve a gift bag or wrapper paper — and that’s the gift of hospitality. Desai says that Rémy Martin XO is the first thing he reaches for when entertaining during the holidays.

“If I’m going to a holiday party, I always make a few cocktails with Rémy Martin XO. Sometimes it’s at the restaurant or bar where myself or my friends are working, sometimes it’s a house party,” he says, citing Rémy Martin eggnog topped with a garnish of grated cinnamon as a particular crowd-pleaser.

But as for the ultimate Rémy Martin cocktail to make during the holiday season, that title may belong to Desai’s Rémy Martin XO Hot Toddy.

“When I’m making a Hot Toddy with Rémy Martin XO, I spice up the honey with cloves, cinnamon, and star anise, which goes amazingly with the Cognac and enhances the Hot Toddy experience because of the layers of flavors you can have,” he says. 

To trot out an old holiday maxim, we still believe that it’s better to give than it is to receive — particularly when you’re gifting Rémy Martin XO. Let’s just hope that your giftee believes in sharing.

This article is sponsored by Rémy Martin.