Whether it is a V.S.O.P. stirred in an Old-Fashioned or an X.O. served on its own with blue cheese, there are countless ways to experience cognac. Smooth and elegant with a distinct aromatic richness, this beverage has incredible versatility.
To prepare for National Cognac Day on June 4th, we tapped some of the U.S.’s best bartenders (and Cognac Educators!) to give us their expert tips for enjoying this authentic, one-of-a-kind spirit.
Tips for Neat Nips: Drinking Cognac on its Own
• Have it Frozen: “After a long night of work, I love to come home to a welcoming glass of frozen cognac V.S.(just keep a bottle in the freezer). I drink it out of a tulip glass, being careful to hold it by the stem so as not to warm up the cognac. You want it to stay cold for as long as possible.” — ms. franky marshall, Modern Bartender, New York City, Cognac Educator.
• Hang on to Your Glass: “I mostly drink cognac, usually V.S.O.P. or X.O., on its own in a fluted glass such as a brandy flute, sherry or white wine glass. I never use a snifter. It’s my ‘sitting on the couch, chilling’ drink. I’ll savor one glass for a long time. When the glass is done, I’ll often hold it and just sniff the empty glass. Just enjoying the aromas is almost as pleasurable as drinking it, especially in a leisurely setting.” — H. Joseph Ehrmann of Elixir, Elixir-to-Go and Cocktail Ambassadors, San Francisco, Cognac Educator.
• Haul in Minis to Complement an Experience: “I love sneaking cognac into music venues and drinking it from small bottles while listening to my favorite bands.” — Ezra Star, General Manager, Drink, Boston, Cognac Educator.
Tips for Cocktails: Mixing Cognac with Other Ingredients
• Add Carbonation: “For those new to cognac, I recommend trying it in a highball drink. A cognac V.S. made with a good quality tonic water or a V.S.O.P. with some fiery ginger beer.” — ms. franky marshall, Modern Bartender, New York City, Cognac Educator.
• Brighten it Up: “A cognac V.S is perfect to lightly shake with fruit, while a V.S.O.P. lends itself well to sour style cocktails.” — Kellie Thorn, Beverage Director, Empire State South, Atlanta, Cognac Educator.
• Reinforce the Aromas: “Cognac’s versatility allows it to pair with a wide range of ingredients in cocktails. I usually opt for a simple lemon sour made with an additional liqueur that enhances cognac’s aromas such as pear, apricot, apple, chocolate or warm baking spice, over a large cube or crushed ice. As a garnish, I will bring out these aromas with either a slice of pear, dried apricot or shaved/grated dark chocolate.” — H. Joseph Ehrmann of Elixir, Elixir-to-Go and Cocktail Ambassadors, San Francisco, Cognac Educator.
Tips for Cognac Pairings: A Food-Friendly Spirit
• Embrace the Smoke: “A cognac V.S. with smoked salmon on a bagel.” — ms. franky marshall, Modern Bartender, New York City, Cognac Educator.
• Takeout’s Best Friend: “I tend to go pair a younger cognac with ginger ale or ginger beer with tacos, and a V.S.O.P. on its own with take-out pizza.” — Ezra Star, General Manager, Drink, Boston, Cognac Educator.
• Indulge Your Sweet Tooth: “Salted caramel and vanilla ice cream with a cognac X.O. is the way to treat yourself!” — Kellie Thorn, Beverage Director, Empire State South, Atlanta, Cognac Educator.
Tips for Discovering Cognac: Sipping Your Way in
• From Clear to Brown Spirit: “Gin drinkers can appreciate a cocktail made with a cognac V.S.” — ms. franky marshall, Modern Bartender, New York City, Cognac Educator.
• It’s An Oak Aged Spirit, Too: “A cognac V.S.O.P. with a good oak character could definitely appeal to whiskey drinkers.” — Kellie Thorn, Beverage Director, Empire State South, Atlanta, Cognac Educator.
• A Spirit for the Beer Drinkers: “Lagers are great introduction to a younger cognac like a V.S., V.S.O.P., or even an X.O. from Borderies.” — Ezra Star, General Manager, Drink, Boston, Cognac Educator.
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