Is Paris Burning? A Wonderful After-Dinner Cocktail

Is Paris Burning? Photo by Richard Swearinger

I’m not a fan of those hyper-sweet dessert martinis that are popular today. Key lime pie martinis, butterscotch pie martinis, chocolate Godiva martinis….they’re just so cloying, and end up making me feel overindulged and tired—worse for having imbibed rather than better.

Especially when entertaining, I’d rather have an after-dinner drink that refreshes and awakens me for another hour or so of conversation with friends and family.

The French know all about what to drink after dinner. They have digestifs—drinks specifically meant for enjoying after a meal. Few of these are sweet or cloying; in fact, most have a bit of a bracing edge to them. Or as the French might say, “ça fait un trou” (it makes a hole), meaning that it kind of eases the fullness of a full stomach.*

Popular digestifs include Armagnac, Cognac, Calvados, and eaux-de-vie. All are great on their own….but for something a little more special—and dessert-ish—I love this cocktail: Is Paris Burning.

It’s made by combining Cognac with a berry liqueur, such as Chambord or Crème de Cassis. It’s perfect for those who enjoy liqueurs, but find them too cloying, as well as those who kind of like Cognac, but find it a little to stiff. It’s a best-of-both worlds cocktail, where the Cognac cuts the sweetness of the liqueur, and the liqueur cuts the force of the Cognac.

And what about the name? A couple sources mentioned that it spoke to the fact that the concoction was sometimes served warm. I tried it that way once. No thank you. It’s stellar served ice cold. Enjoy!


For each cocktail:
2 ounces Cognac
1 ounce Chambord or crème de cassis
4 or 5 ice cubes
1 lemon twist

In a cocktail shaker, combine the Cognac and Chambord. Add the ice cubes; cover and shake until very cold. Strain into a chilled martini glass; twist the lemon peel over the drink and drop it in.


* Note that while I’ve heard the phrase “ça fait un trou” in the Armagnac and Calvados regions, my hosts in the Cognac region raised an eyebrow when I mentioned such a thing. It’s an inelegant thing to say….but then, the Armagnac and Calvados regions are a bit more laid-back about such things.

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3 comments to Is Paris Burning? A Wonderful After-Dinner Cocktail

  • Nichole

    mmm This sounds perfect. I’ve had Cognac + Grand Mariner (a Beautiful, I believe it was called, served in a warmed snifter) and was pleasantly surprised how well they complimented each other. I can see the luscious raspberry of the Chambord here having the same effect. Definitely putting this onto my must-make-soon list.

  • Sarah Collins

    Must be enjoyed warm. Use a brandy snifter to keep it warm. Also use courvoisier brandy.


    Another way to make a Paris is burning is 2 shots of cognac, 1 shot of Chambord into a sniffer glass and heat it in microwave for 25 seconds, you won’t be disappointed

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