Cognac Cocktails

Sidecar Cocktail


This may be my favorite French cocktail: With tart citrus juice, orange liqueur, and a potent spirit, consider it the French granddaddy of the margarita. Legend says it was invented in France and named for a bar patron who loved the drink—and who always arrived at the bar chauffeured in a motorcycle sidecar.

4 or 5 ice cubes
1 1/2 ounces Cognac
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
3/4 ounce Cointreau or triple sec
1 lemon twist

Place the ice, Cognac, lemon juice, and Cointreau in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled martini glass; twist the lemon peel over the drink and drop it in.

Cognac Julep

A few years ago, I traveled through the Cognac region in west-central France to learn about the time-honored French spirit. I was somewhat surprised to hear producers extolling Cognac’s virtues in cocktails, as I had thought that they might raise an eyebrow at the idea of serving the hallowed sip any way but in its purest form. Turns out, Cognac has long been a favorite ingredient of mixologists in France and the United States—it adds depth and finesse to cocktails.

I was also surprised to learn that mint juleps were originally made with Cognac or brandy instead of bourbon. What a difference a switch in spirit makes! This is one smooth Julep.

6 fresh mint leaves
1 teaspoon simple syrup (see Note), or more to taste
Crushed ice
2 ounces Cognac

Place the mint leaves in a short tumbler; press with a muddler or the back of a spoon to break up the leaves and release the mint’s fragrance. Stir in the simple syrup. Fill the glass halfway with crushed ice; add the Cognac and stir well, until the glass is frosty.

Is Paris Burning?

The name of this classic cocktail refers, perhaps, to the fact that the concoction was sometimes served warm (although it’s better ice cold). This stiff but luscious drink is perfect for those who love the deep, rich berry flavors of Chambord or crème de cassis but wish such liqueurs weren’t so cloying—Cognac cuts the sweetness.

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.

Pear-Cognac Neo-Tini

This is a sophisticated French-inspired answer to all those tutti-fruiti neo-martinis out there. It’s fruit juice–based, but not by any means overly sweet—the pear nectar brings a mellow, fruity softness, the Cognac lends depth and complexity, and the ginger adds a touch of spice.

1 thin slice of ginger
1 1/2 ounces Cognac
1 1/2 ounces pear nectar
1/2 ounce Cointreau or triple sec
4 or 5 ice cubes
1 orange twist (optional)

Place the ginger in a cocktail shaker and break it up with a muddler or the back of a spoon. Add the Cognac, pear nectar, and Cointreau to the shaker. Add the ice cubes and shake well. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve (such as a tea strainer) into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with the orange twist, if you like.

Kir with a Kick

Cognac adds virility to the classic kir royale, which is made with Champagne and black currant liqueur. It’s a dashing way to kick off the evening.

3/4 ounce Cognac
1/4 ounce crème de cassis or Chambord
Chilled Champagne or sparkling wine
1 raspberry (optional)

Pour the Cognac and the crème de cassis into a flute; fill the flute with Champagne. Garnish with a raspberry, if you like.



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