In recent weeks, we’ve covered what cognac is and some cocktails you can make using cognac as a primary ingredient. What we haven’t covered is the many different ways that you can enjoy a glass of cognac.
It may surprise you that cognac can be enjoyed in many different ways: neat/straight up, on ice, frozen, in a mixed drink, or with food or a cigar. We are going to cover the many exciting ways that you can enjoy a cognac tonight!
Traditionally, cognac is generally consumed neat. That means that it is served at room temperature, straight, in a glass with no ice. Furthermore, cognac is typically served as an aperitif or after-dinner drink. In general, if you have an old bottle of cognac on your hands, you are going to want to drink the spirit neat so that you can savor the flavors. Leave the “young” spirits for a mixed drink, and don’t waste the quality of an older spirit. Drink your expensive, old cognacs straight-up.
Pro tip: To fully appreciate your cognac, leave your stresses and worries outside your door. Put on some relaxing music, turn the lights down low, and allow your cognac to have the proper mood and setting to be appreciated!
Do not heat your cognac or cool it—unless you know ahead of time that you prefer your drink served that way. In fact, cradling the glass in your palm is an experienced drinker’s way to gently warm the cognac up just a little bit. If you have stored your cognac below room temperature (such as in a cellar), you want to take the bottle out and let it come to room temperature before serving.
You can add water to your cognac. If you do, don’t go nuts. Just add a little drop of water and taste to see how the water changes the profile of the spirit. Most people notice that adding a drop of water helps to reveal the spirit’s floral and spicy aromas. It can also help to make the tasting experience smoother. Let’s be honest, sometimes cognac can burn like fire if you drink it straight-up. Adding water can help you enjoy the drink much more!
A tulip glass or a snifter is the optimal choice for serving your cognac neat. The long and narrow shape of the glass helps to tone down the alcohol so you can savor the inherent flavors of the spirit. As the name of the glass implies, the snifter is a great tool for getting the most out of the scent of your spirit. Even if you choose to add a drop of water, the tulip glass is the preferred glass.
You can drink your cognac on the rocks, but do be careful with how much ice you put in. It’s not ideal to dilute the cognac too much. Although, increasing the temperature of the spirit and adding a little water does help to curb the alcoholic burn. Most professionals recommend putting no more than two ice cubes into the glass. Then, use your hand to cradle the glass, allowing the warmth from your hand to raise the temperature of the spirit and melt the ice just a little quicker.
When drinking your cognac on the rocks, it’s best served in a large tumbler. This helps to accommodate a properly sized ice cube or two.
The ABK6 Ice Cognac is a cognac that is designed especially to be served over ice. It has wonderful flavors of vanilla and lemon sorbet.
Well, sort of. Cognac has a very high alcohol percentage, which makes it very hard to freeze. (Spirits between 40-80 proof won’t freeze in normal home freezers.) Unless you have a medical storage system, your cognac is unlikely to freeze to a solid. Home freezers are typically set to 0°F, and Hennessy’s glacial limit is -16°F.
That being said, you can certainly stick your cognac in the freezer. If you do, be careful! As the liquid expands, it may shatter your bottle or, at a minimum, push the cork out. So, be sure to drink the bottle down a few inches first and put the bottle in the freezer open. A “frozen” cognac will get thick and slushy-like.
Many experts will say that freezing cognac will mask and lessen the complexity and intensity of the flavors. While this may be true, you may find that you prefer your cognac in this way. You never know until you give it a try! It’s important to note that the drink may seem less alcoholic (because of the effect it has on your tongue). But the spirit is actually just as high in alcohol content as when it’s served at room temperature. Take care not to poison yourself because you can’t taste the alcohol!
When serving a frozen cognac, consider finding a metal glass. This will help you keep your drink colder for longer.
Frozen cognac pairs well with seafood, you’ll find. If you want to give this a try, consider a frozen cognac slushy with oysters, lobster, or sushi.
Cognac mixes well with other ingredients, to make all kinds of cocktails. The general rule of thumb is to not waste an older, quality cognac by mixing it. Instead, choose a “young” spirit for mixing, such as the Courvosier VS or Frapin VS.
You can keep it simple by adding a splash of tonic or ginger ale to your cognac. These mixers help to bring out the notes of fruit and licorice. This is how many locals from the French region of Cognac enjoy their spirit. Others enjoy a dash of cognac in their iced tea.
When mixing up a drink using cognac as an ingredient, consider using a tall glass with plenty of ice cubes in it.
It shouldn’t surprise you that most classic cocktail recipes involving cognac are French in name and origin. After all, the cognac is a very specific kind of French brandy! Here are some classic cocktail recipes involving cognac:
Cognac pairs very well with savory foods as well as desserts. Furthermore, cognac is extremely popular to enjoy with a flavorful cigar, as the flavor profiles can be very complementary.
Umami, one of the five basic tastes, covers “savoriness.” Cognac and umami go hand in hand. In general, cognac pairs very well with such food ingredients as duck, mushrooms, cheese, sushi, and chocolate. This changes depending on the brand and style of the cognac. Cognac pairs very well with seafood, as we previously stated. Try a VSOP cognac with a dish of Norway Lobsters and seasonal vegetables.
This is an excellent article that talks about how to pair your cognac with food. Don’t forget to check out our serving trays, which can be personalized in many different ways!
When choosing a cigar, be mindful of the taste of both the cigar and the cognac. In general, full-bodied cognacs pair well with full-bodied cigars, and light-bodied cognacs pair well with light cigars. Here are a couple of great ideas for you to try:
Here is an excellent list of cigars that go well with cognac. If you haven’t checked out our awesome barrel stave glass and cigar holder, you should!
Cognac is a high-proof brandy that is made with a specific type of white grape and distilled in a specific region of France. There are many different ways that you can enjoy a glass of cognac. Try it served straight up or “neat,” with water, on ice, frozen slushy-style, as a cocktail, with food, or with a cigar. What is your favorite way to enjoy cognac? Let us know in the comments!