5 Tips: Cognac

cognac-glass

With more than 150 bottlings to choose from, including a variety of vintage spirits dating back to the early 20th century, the Brandy Library is the best place to enjoy cognac in New York and possibly the whole country. And Flavien Desoblin, who opened the venerable institution in 2004, not only has 14 years of experience serving drinks but also is an enthusiastic cognac evangelist.

We couldn’t think of a better guide to this oft-misunderstood liquor, so we asked him for some key pieces of advice.

If It’s Young, Mix It:

For cocktails, Desoblin advises that you pour a younger spirit like Courvoisier VS, Frapin VS or Leopold Gourmel Premieres Saveurs. Citrus, nutty and floral flavors play well with cognac, so try fixing classics such as the Sidecar and French Connection. Also, “a young cognac with ginger ale on ice works wonders when it’s hot,” Desoblin says. We recommend his Jarnac Ginger, a brandy-based spin on the Dark ‘n Stormy.

If It’s Old, Drink It Straight:

“As soon as there is any depth or complexity with a cognac,” Desoblin says, “it should not be used in cocktails.” Save those pricey XO and hors d’age spirits for sipping. Aged brandies have very delicate and subtle notes, and he suggests having them without mixers, food or even cigars. Desoblin prefers his cognac “after dinner with little distraction. Prerequisites: no stress, anger or loud people around!”

No Water, No Ice:

“Water tends to make cognac too bland, unless you deal with a cask-strength bottling, which is rare,” Desoblin says, “and ice just kills it.” In general, serve the spirit neat, at room temperature or slightly cooler. The traditional snifter, with its wide, balloon-shaped bottom and narrow top, is the ideal vessel, Desoblin says: “It allows for swirling and therefore the liberation of aromatic compounds.”

Find a Great Deal:

Cognac beginners need not fret; there’s a wide range of excellent spirits available for under $50. A few suggestions from Desoblin: Pierre Ferrand Ambre, Hardy VSOP, Cognac Park Borderies Single Vineyard, H by Hine, Normandin-Mercier VSOP, Louis Grimaud VSOP and Vignoble Grateaud Bouquet des Borderies.

Stock Up Now:

If you’ve ever thought about building a brandy collection, you’d better get started. Due to huge demand for expensive XO bottlings in Asia, many large cognac producers are running low on older stocks. Soon, “on top of being hard to find in the US,” Desoblin says, these coveted spirits “will be of a lesser quality as well.”

Jarnac Ginger

Contributed by Flavien Desoblin
INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 oz Cognac
  • .5 oz Sugar cane syrup
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • 1.5 oz Ginger ale
  • Club soda
  • Glass: Highball
  • Garnish: Lime wedge and ginger candy

PREPARATION:
Add all the ingredients except the club soda to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake, and strain into a highball glass filled with fresh ice. Top with club soda and garnish with a lime wedge and a piece of ginger candy on a skewer.

More Great Food & Drink Stories from Across the Web

Comments

  1. Stephen R Korup says

    Hello ,
    I was wondering if you could ask Mr Flavien Desoblin of the Brandy Library how to treat something such as “Cherry Marnier” when drinking it straight . When it’s Young and I guess I can consider it “OLD” , I say that because I have two bottles that I believe to be from between the mid 60′s to the early 70′s. These two bottles are covered in Red Velvet and no Date can be found on them .
    Now I Know Cherry Marnier is a Mixture of Cognac and the Cherries that have been Smashed together with their Stones to get every bit of the best of that Fruit ,and then it’s Classified as a Liqueur . My opinion is that it’s still a Cognac , I would greatly Appreciate Your Respected Opinion .

    Very Respectfully Yours

    Stephen R Korup

    • Liquor.com says

      Hi Stephen–
      Thanks for your comment. Though it’s made using cognac as a base, Cherry Marnier is definitely a liqueur; it is sweetened, while cognac is not. Because it’s so sweet, it’s not really designed to be sipped by itself. It’s best used in cocktails. But if you do want to drink it solo, we’d recommend chilling it first. (And even though your Cherry Marnier may be old, the spirit itself doesn’t mature once it’s in the bottle.)

Speak Your Mind

leaderboard bottom