This article is part of a series sponsored by Rémy Martin. Discover Your Cognac Fine Champagne Destination here!
Cognac enthusiasts are quick to proclaim the virtues of their preferred spirit as such: it begins with better ingredients; it’s more time-consuming to make; it’s more costly to produce. If whiskey is nothing more than humble grains fermented and distilled, Cognac is nothing less than fine wine distilled into elegant grape brandy.
Produced exclusively in the Cognac region of southwestern France, Cognac is twice distilled in copper pot stills then aged at least two years, (though often many, many more), in French oak barrels from one of two legendary French forests, Limousin or Tronçais. The result is a spirit of many contrasts—refined yet approachable, floral but fruity, sweet and spicy—but always delicious.
For far too long, Cognac has been associated with more mature drinkers luxuriating in postprandial situations. But modern drinks enthusiasts are finally realizing it can play a role in their lives too, in whatever manner they choose. Yes, everyone can benefit from stocking Cognac in their home bar these days.
It’s a versatile spirit.
Cognac is perhaps the most versatile spirit out there; it can be enjoyed neat, with a few drops of water, on the rocks, in cocktails, and with food. If some categories of spirits all seem to “taste the same,” Cognac offers a wide spectrum of flavors and aromas; there’s unquestionably something for each and every drinker. Whether you’re looking for something vibrant and youthful with fruit and floral flavors or something a bit richer with notes of toffee, candied nuts, and dark chocolate, there is a Cognac to match your tastes and suit your needs.
There is a wide array of Cognac options, based on age of the spirit.
Rémy Martin—a brand that has been around since 1724—produces a full range of Cognacs. All are exclusively made from a blend of unaged eaux de vie from the Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne districts of the Cognac region known as “crus.” At least 50% of its production comes from Grande Champagne, with grapes grown in chalky soils, creating incredibly fragrant eaux de vie that are capable of handling extended cask maturation.
When choosing which Cognac to drink and when, consider the age of the spirit first. Within Rémy Martin’s house portfolio you’ll discover a V.S.O.P. (Very Special Old Pale), which is the top-selling VSOP worldwide, and an X.O. (Extra Old), a blend of up to four-hundred eaux-de-vie. These Cognacs are the best for mixing into cocktails. That said, the 1738 Accord Royal, aged in uniquely toasted oak barrels, offering an earthiness yet remaining mellow makes for a Sidecar cocktail. Rémy Martin Tercet reflects the house’s purist approach to making cognac, focusing on bringing connoisseurs the essence of grapes from the vine to the bottle. Finally, there’s Louis XIII, the king of them all and one of the most coveted spirits in the entire world, on any drinker’s bucket list. You’ll want to sip these older and pricier vintages neat, for fear of masking their extraordinarily sophisticated flavor profiles.
Cognac works perfectly in cocktails.
While the elegance and often celebratory positioning of Cognac has led many people to assume it must surely fall outside of their spirits budget, that’s hardly the case these days. VSOP and 1738 Royal Accord are very attainable, both sold at stores nationwide. Even higher-end vintages like XO and Tercet offer what can be seen as an approachable splurge.
Likewise, Cognac shouldn’t only be relegated to after-dinner enjoyment—it works splendidly in cocktails. Try it in a Sidecar or Vieux Carre, or try it in other classics such as the Old Fashioned, Sazerac, or Manhattan. Or you can just opt for a simple highball, an XO & ginger ale working incredibly well.
Cognac also pairs well with cheese, dessert, or your entree.
Similarly, it actually pairs incredibly well culinarily, never overwhelming the food. The brandy offers a unique range of flavor profiles that can be enjoyed with a variety of ingredients, making it a smart spirit to keep on-hand for snacking, dessert, or even in the midst of dinner itself.
On the savory side of things, put Cognac with everything from cheese (rule of thumb: pair younger cognacs with younger cheeses; aged cognacs with more mature ones) to charcuterie (pâtés, terrines, cured meats) to flavors across the international landscape, including dishes like Peking duck, fresh crab legs and sushi. A quintessential Cognac pairing is wild mushrooms (porcini, chanterelles, black trumpets, and on), made even better when are sautéed in the spirit…and then perhaps stuffed inside a chicken. A chicken in every pot, and a bottle of Cognac on every bar.
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