Lucie Loves… Food & Drink // Feeling like a ‘G’ – My Cognac Discovery Evening at The Whisky Exchange, London

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Right! I’m putting it out there. Who drinks Cognac these days? I mean… the last time I had a glass (it was Courvoisier) and I was probably sat with my Ex’s mum and dad, winding down in front of some Saturday night tv. Wild, eh?

But do you know what? I do enjoy it – especially over ice with some dry ginger. Try it! 

I’d be interested to know what your go-to drink is on a night out out? Or even if you’re reaching for something other than a wine, Prosecco, beer or cider – what is it? For me, it tends to be a Bourbon. I love American Whiskey. I love whisky whisky too. 

But what I do enjoy, and what being a blogger is great for, is having your mind opened to the other things in life that you could be 

a) eating 

b) drinking 

c) enjoying 

d) exploring 

e) doing… etc etc.

If it wasn’t for this little past time, I’d be nowhere near as knowledgable of the food and drinks industry as I am today. 

So, not really knowing anything about Cognac, I decided it was time for a bit education around the subject. What’s funny is that when people think of Cognac, they often forget that Cognac, like wine, comes from a vast number of vineyards across an equally vast region. It’s a spirit that is literally steeped, or should I say, distilled, in history. It’s now exported to over 160 countries world wide, but for how long?

If you’re in your early thirties or younger, you – like me – will probably associate Cognac with ‘ballers. Rappers, Hip Hop legends, Gangsters and other monied characters. It’s a status symbol – something to pepper your rap songs with, to add a bit of class.

Good cognac is like a woman. Do not assault it. Coddle and warm it in your hands before you sip it.” - Winston Churchill. 

But why aren’t more of us drinking Cognac? I’ve not got a bloody clue? I think it’s maybe because we don’t know how to drink it? Or maybe because we don’t see our friends drinking it? It’s actually cheaper to get a decent quality Cognac than it is to get a decent Whisky, says our Cognac Educator for the evening, Michelle Brachet of Cognac Maniacs and The Whisky Exchange’s incredibly sassy Buyer, Dawn Davies (get this woman a TV show!!)

As I type this blog post, I’m sipping on a pretty little glass of Cognac V.S.O.P, poured over ice and ginger ale. I had another, the other week, with coca cola and a chunk of white chocolate – not in the same glass, obviously.

The Cognacs we tasted…

Paul Giraud Tres Rare - £170

Esteve Coup de Coeur - £79.95

Prunier 1986, Fins Bois – currently out of stock

Over the course of the evening, we tried various food pairings. The young, cheaper, Cognacs go really well with blinis topped with cream cheese and smoked salmon. Where as the XO goes better with cherries and chocolate or charcuterie meats. We learnt how the eau-de-vie only becomes Cognac after slow ageing in oak casks. It’s the contact with this wood that gives Cognac it’s beautiful amber colour.

How to read a label and find out which Cognac is which?

  • V.S. (Very Special) ou *** (3 stars) - The youngest eau-de-vie in the blend is at least two years old
  • V.S.O.P. (very Superior Old Pale), Reserve - The youngest eau-de-vie in the blend is at least four years old
  • Napoléon, X.O (Extra Old), Hors d’áge - Any Cognac whose eau-de-vie is at least six years old

Cognac is best tasted in a tulip glass. Be fussy, ask for one at the bar when you order your next tipple. The shape is perfect for keeping the aromas and releasing them gently as you taste.

Cognac cocktails you need to try

  • Long drink
  • Lancer Franc: 2.0 fl. oz. of Cognac, 1.0 fl. oz. of Creme de Fraises, Orange Juice, Ice and a slice of orange to serve
  • East India: 75ml V.S.O.P. Cognac, 3.8ml Grand Marnier, 3.8ml maraschino liquer, 7.5ml grenadine syrup, 1 dash Angostura aromatic bitters
  • Cognac Glace
  • Sidecar: 2 oz Cognac, ¾ oz Lemon juice, ¾ oz Triple sec
  • Bandista: 5cl of Lecompte 12 YO Calvados, 1cl of Cherry Brandy Morand, 16cl of fresh apple juice, 2 slices of fresh ginger,  ½ stem of fresh lemongrass, 3-4 drops of fresh lime juice
  • Cognac Float: 30ml Martell cognac, 80ml sparkling soft drink (great with soda water, ginger ale, tonic water or lemonade), Ice cubes
  • Pink Love: 3/4 ounce Cognac, ¼ ounce Chambered or crème de cassis, chilled Champagne or sparkling wine, 1 raspberry, optional             

 Interesting in finding out more about Cognac? Head to www.cognac.fr or www.phototheque.cognac.fr to discover the fascinating world of Cognac in pictures.

Also, don’t forget to check out The Whisky Exchange, London – It’s literally an Aladdin’s Cave of spirits. Stunning!

Photography © Lucie Kerley