What makes Cognac the king of dark spirits? Is it its cultural heritage, its traditional production methods or its artisanal elegance? There is no doubt about it, all of these contribute to its reputation as spirit nobility and together with the current trend towards artisan spirits, Cognac is moving back into the limelight where it belongs – especially when it comes to mixology.
As part of the BNICs mission to build the reputation of Cognac in the UK bar scene, Phipps recently took 14 of the top UK bartenders to the beautiful region of Cognac to mix some cocktails and learn more.
If there was any doubt about the renaissance of Cognac you just need to speak to bartender guru Tony Conigliaro who has recently launched Bar Luciole, a Cognac cocktail bar in, yes you guessed it, Cognac. He’s not alone, some of the biggest names in mixology are turning to Cognac to create twists on the classics.
Joe Hall, Satan’s Whiskers says: “Cognac is a must have ingredient in any bar because of its versatility. When the appropriate types of cognac are used, it really can have something for everyone. Everyone is aware of its sipping qualities, but its capabilities in light and refreshing drinks (cocktails, thoughtful mixers etc.) are relatively unexplored”.
After visits to various houses, a cooperage and a session on flavour profiling, spirits were high and the bartenders were invited to take part in an exclusive Cognac cocktail competition on board a gabare boat, traditionally used to transport cognac on the Charente river.
Pierre-Marie from Milk & Honey and Liam from Callooh Callay kicked off the speed round, where bartenders teamed up to create three Cognac cocktails while handcuffed together.
Next, the two speediest mixologists were given the task of creating a perfect Cognac cocktail using an array of spirits, liqueurs and mixers and all the knowledge they had gained during the trip. DIO from Oriole and Sara from The Gibson made a great attempt with some seamlessly blended flavours, but the winners were Joe Hall from Satan’s Whiskers and Roman Shabodalov from Hawksmoor with the simple and fruity ‘Napoleon Strawberry Soda’.
Napoleon Strawberry Soda recipe
2 strawberries, crushed
A pinch of sugar
15ml lemon juice
15 ml soda water
When asked about his time in Cognac, Dardan Hoti from the Blue Bar said: “I can honestly say that I enjoyed every single minute. This trip has given me a better insight into the world of Cognac and has made me appreciate the spirit as a category even more. Every producer we met, everything we visited were inspiring.”
The trip has created a new group of ambassadors to spread the word about cognac in the UK and we’ll be visiting the bartenders on their home turf over the next few months to see how the trip has inspired them to get creative with cognac. Watch this space…