Cognac cocktails

ByThe Cocktail Lovers


Think cognac, think old duffers or new age rap. Cocktails rarely get a look in. Which is surprising given that the ‘king of brandies’ forms the base of some of the oldest, most beautifully balanced mixed drinks around. There’s the Sazerac, the Sidecar, Brandy Crusta, Stinger and Brandy Blazer for starters and let’s not forget the effortlessly elegant French 75. Sure cognac can be savoured in a balloon glass with a puffed out chest and a fat cigar but on a more inclusive level, you can appreciate its complexities in an expertly mixed cocktail…

Cognac cocktails being prepared for the History of The Cocktail in Cognac

Thank heavens modern bartenders think so too. As well as embracing the classics mentioned above the more enlightened are going for a lighter touch with more contemporary, fresher tipples which can be enjoyed by aficionados and newcomers alike. Particularly women. And in particular those who regard cognac as a boys drink; something too ‘big’, too masculine for a female palate.

The Cognac Summit is a case in point. Created at the International Cognac Summit in 2008 by 20 of the world’s top bartenders including Dale DeGroff, Audrey Saunders, Simon Difford and Stefan Gabanyi, the drink has been designed to appeal to all tastes. And it works. Combining VSOP cognac, fresh ginger, lime peel, cucumber peel and lemonade, it’s deliciously aromatic, delightfully light and cuts it in the taste department with men and women of all ages.

The Cocktail Summit

Not that there’s anything wrong with the bolder tasting cognac cocktails. Far from it. The Sazerac and Sidecar are as spot-on today as they were when they were created. You can find one or both of them on the menu in most good hotel bars including The Coburg Bar at the Connaught, The Library Bar at The Lanesborough, The Rivoli Bar at The Ritz and The American Bar at The Savoy and the good thing is, more and more people are requesting and appreciating them.

Cognac cocktails at The Coburg Bar

The Maestro Salvatore Calabrese is a huge fan of classsic cognac cocktails and at his new bar at the recently opened Playboy Club, you’ll find them on the Classics and Pre-Dinner Cocktails sections of his extensive menu. But if you want to treat yourself to something exceptional, charge up the credit card and plump for one of the cognac specials on the Vintage Cocktails list. A Sidecar made with Hedges and Butler 1914 cognac and a Cointreau from the late 1930s, together with lemon juice can be yours for £350, while a Brandy Crusta made with Monnet Cognac 1858, Dubb Orange Curacao from the late 1860s and lemon juice, served as the originator Jerry Thomas specified in his book dating back to 1862, in a sugar crusted glass lined with pared lemon peel is a mere £425… But there’s one more, the Sazerac, produced to the original recipe using a Sazerac de Forge et fils from 1805 simply made with Peychaud bitters and sugar, available to order for the privileged few for a  whopping £2,000.

Mind you, whether your preference is for classic or contemporary cocktails, you can always make them at home. Have a go at the following:

Classics (or ones for big boy flavour)

Brandy Crusta (1840)

Lemon wedge
Super fine sugar
50ml Cognac
10-15ml Cointreau
10-15ml fresh lemon juice
Dash of Maraschino liqueur
Lemon peel spiral

Rub the rim of a chilled sour glass with the lemon wedge and rim with sugar. Shake the liquid ingredients vigorously with ice. Strain into the prepared glass. Garnish with the lemon spiral.

Cognac Sour (1830)

40ml VSOP Cognac
15ml fresh lemon juice
15ml cane sugar syrup
5 or 6 ice cubes

Place ice in shaker, pour in cognac, fresh lemon juice and sugar syrup. Shake well until the container is frosted. Strain into a rocks glass containing a few ice cubes..

Sazerac (1830)

1 tsp Pernod (or Herbsaint)
50ml cognac
3 to 4 dashes of Peychaud bitters
Lemon twist

Coat the inside of a chilled old-fashioned glass with the Pernod or Herbsaint, discarding the excess. Shake the cognac and bitters vigorously with ice. Strain into the prepared glass. Twist the lemon peel over the drink and drop in.

Sidecar (1920)

20ml VSOP Cognac
10ml fresh lemon juice
10ml Triple Sec
1 orange peel
5 or 6 ice cubes

Place the ice cubes in a cocktail shaker, pour in the cognac, lemon juice and lemon juice. Shake well until the container is frosted. Strain into the glass (using strainer). Press orange peel over the drink.

Stinger (1900)

20ml VS Cognac
10ml white Creme de Menthe
3 or 4 ice cubes
Fresh mint

Fill old-fashioned glass with ice cubes, pour in cognac and white Creme de Menthe. Stir well for 5 seconds using a bar spoon. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Classics (lighter, mostly longer and easier on the palate, appealing to women and cognac newbies)

Brandy Alexander (1940)

30ml VS or VSOP Cognac
20ml dark Creme de Cacao
20ml single cream
Grated nutmeg
5-6 ice cubes

Place ice cubes in a shaker, pour in the cognac, dark Creme de Cacao and single cream. Shake well until container is frosted on the outside. Strain into a chilled martini glass (using a cocktail strainer). Sprinkle some grated nutmeg over the top.

Champagne Cocktail (1889)

20ml VSOP Cognac
100ml Champagne
2 or 3 dashes of Angostura Bitters
1 cube brown sugar
1 lemon peel

Soak the cube of brown sugar with 2-3 dashes of Angostura Bitters and place at the bottom of a Champagne flute. Pour in the Cognac and Champagne. Stir well for 5 seconds using a bar spoon. Garnish with lemon peel.

Cognac Collins (1860)

20ml VS or VSOP Cognac
15ml fresh lemon juice
15ml cane sugar syrup
90ml soda water
4-5 ice cubes
Lemon wedge

Place ice cubes in highball glass, pour in the cognac, fresh lemon juice, sugar syrup and soda. Stir well for 5 seconds with bar spoon. Garnish with the lemon wedge.

Horse’s Neck (1890)

40ml VSOP Cognac
1 long lemon peel
3-4 dashes Angostura Bitters
140ml ginger ale
4-5 ice cubes

Place the spiralled long lemon peel in a highball glass. Fill with ice then pour in cognac, Angostura Bitters and ginger ale. Stir gently for a few seconds using a bar spoon.

Contemporary (easy to drink, designed to appeal to modern, particularly female tastes)

Cognac Summit (2008)

1 lime peel
4 thin slices of fresh ginger
40ml VSOP Cognac
60ml traditional lemonade
1 long piece of cucumber peel
4-5 ice cubes

Place lime zest and ginger slices in tumbler glass. Pour in 20ml of VSOP cognac. Lightly press the lime and ginger 2-3 times using a muddler. Half fill the glass with ice. Stir well for 5 seconds using bar spoon. Pour in 20ml of VSOP. Add 60ml of traditional lemonade and cucumber peel. Stir well for 5 seconds using bar spoon.

Pink Love

20ml VSOP Cognac
10ml raspberry liqueur
90ml Champagne
1 raspberry

Pour cognac and liqueur into Champagne flute, fill with chilled Champagne. Garnish with raspberry.

If you want to know more about the nitty-gritty of making cognac (and why wouldn’t you?), click here.


The Cocktail Lovers

The Cocktail Lovers

The Cocktail Lovers are Mr G and Ms S, a man and a woman who share a passion for cocktails. (We also happen to be married, so we’re cocktail lovers in more ways than one…)


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