How Bartender Ramsey Musk Uses Rémy Martin XO This Holiday Season

As the bar program director for a Japanese-Peruvian restaurant in Los Angeles’s Silver Lake neighborhood, Ramsey Musk spends a good deal of his time crafting playful cocktails built around a wide range of gins, piscos, and agave spirits. But when the holiday season approaches and thoughts turn toward celebratory gatherings with family and friends, his attention invariably gravitates toward one spirit in particular.

“When it comes to cold weather spirits, I think everyone’s mind immediately shifts to dark, aged spirits,” Musk says. “And for me, a lot of the flavor notes that come out in Rémy Martin XO specifically are flavor notes that people associate with this time of year.”

Rémy Martin XO Ramsey Musk

Those notes — cinnamon, hazelnuts, cocoa beans, but also lighter flavors of honey and fig — are Rémy Martin XO’s calling card and the reason this expression slots so neatly into holiday celebrations. Masterfully blended from hundreds of eaux-de-vie, the signature Cognac of Rémy Martin cellar master Baptiste Loiseau meets the holiday moment by balancing opulence and versatility, which, according to Musk, makes it a go-to bottle whether he’s gifting, entertaining, or raising a celebratory holiday toast. With something in the glass for everyone, Rémy Martin XO can play the role of both a rare gem and a crowd-pleaser at the same time.

“No matter what our palates gravitate toward, the flavors you can pull from Rémy Martin XO are so vast — jasmine, dried fig, dark chocolate, beeswax — it’s really the perfect expression for anybody because you can take from it what you want, or pick up things that are familiar to you,” he says.

So how does Ramsey Rémy? Around the holidays he’ll gather with hospitality industry friends — “a lot of us are misfits who don’t get to go home because we’re working” — and bring a bottle of Rémy Martin XO rather than the conventional bottle of wine. “Rémy Martin XO has this interesting, unique quality of being really rich and decadent but not heavy or too much,” he says. “You can enjoy it throughout the night, not just at the end of a meal.”

But that doesn’t stop him from bringing out a bottle of Rémy Martin XO to accentuate after-dinner socializing. “It’s such a nice celebratory thing to break out a bottle of Rémy Martin XO and share a bit after dinner when we’re all a little full and sitting around talking,” he says. “It’s just a nice way to connect, and it brings us all together because we can all enjoy it.”

That versatility and natural seasonal fit also make Rémy Martin XO an ideal holiday gift, Musk says. Whereas many spirits contain sharp or polarizing flavors that don’t suit everyone’s palates — the smokiness in many mezcals, for instance — expertly aged spirits like Rémy Martin XO are quite approachable despite their elegance. “There’s a comfort that I think everyone gets from an aged spirit,” he says. “So it really hits the mark for a lot of people.”

It’s also the kind of gift you can easily personalize. “Rémy Martin is all about terroir, it’s so important to them,” he says. “So if you’re giving it to a friend who’s not in the same city as you, for instance, you can build a little terroir box of yourself based on Rémy Martin XO — locally made chocolate or locally sourced honey, really anything that’s local to you that you can pull out of Rémy Martin and those tasting notes. It makes for such a fun little gift.”

Rémy Martin XO

Musk’s preferred Rémy Martin XO serve is the neat pour, as additional ingredients can muddy the Cognac’s more delicate aromatics and nuanced flavors. But he’s not out to dissuade anyone from deploying it in a cocktail. “Go for a delicious stirred cocktail with it if you want to see what it’s like,” he says. “But if you’re going to do it, keep it simple and just pull a couple of flavor notes that really bolster the experience for somebody.”

The key with a spirit like Rémy Martin XO is to keep things simple — no shaking with citrus, for instance — and focus on playing up the flavors already expressed by the Cognac. Something like an Old Fashioned variation works well in this case because the uncomplicated nature of the cocktail allows for very precise control over every aspect of the drink. Swapping in a different sugar like honey or a baking spice-infused simple syrup, or tinkering with the bitters component could yield interesting results in this format.

“But I think this particular Cognac is so beautiful on its own, it doesn’t need to be in a cocktail,” he says. “It’s so deep, so unique, and there are so many layers and nuanced flavors to it that over ice is a cocktail in itself.”

This article is sponsored by Rémy Martin.