Did you not love last month of parties, celebrations, tasting unusual food and fun drinks? I love it and the people who know me, also know I don’t need an excuse to eat and drink. Life is for living, not deprivations.
After dinner drinks seems to be one of my favorite part of a dinner. Especially in this cold time of the year ending a dinner with a cognac warms up the hands and revives the soul.
Cognac is a prestigious French after dinner drink with a higher alcohol content than wines. It is the result of centuries-old techniques of distilling spirit (eau-de-vie) made from fermented white grapes, and aged for at least two years. The spirit, which originates from the town of Cognac in France and its six surrounding viticulture areas is the only spirit that can be called Cognac and anywhere is called Brandy. The French law is very strict, just like producing Champagne.
Eau-de-vie grows on chalky soil and breathes the influence of the Atlantic Ocean. Oak barrels made from old wood 60 to 100 years old contribute to the special refinement of the elixir of the Gods. Aging process of Cognac starts at two years up to fifty years and over.
The color of Cognac varies from pale yellow to a deep auburn, the older the cognac, the darker the color.
You know you are sitting at a classy dinner when you see appearing the decanter bottle for Cognac. Just like wines, drinking cognac is a sensory experience, involving the eyes, the nose and the taste buds. The etiquette of serving and tasting Cognac is quite strict.
The glass is only filled about ¼ full. The host gets the bottle and always serves the guest on his/her right, holds the glass by the stem and tilts the glass close to the neck of the bottle. This is the most elegant way of serving Cognac. Cognac is for sipping not gulping it down. Always hold the glass bottom in the palm, the warmth of the hand will open up the bouquet of Cognac. Connoisseurs will prefer it straight served in tulip shaped glasses, balloon glasses with a short stem or in modern balloon with a small foot base.
Cognac combines well with excellent cigars and dark chocolate with coarse salt tops.
The names of Cognac define the quality:
V.S. (Very Superior) or trois étoile are the Cognac of at least 3 years of age.
V.S.O.P. (Very Superior Old Pale), VO (Very Old) e Reserve are the Cognac aged at least four years.
Napoleon, X.O. (Extra Old or Vieille Reserve), Grande Réserve, Royal, Vieux (Old) are aged six years.
Hors d’Age and Paradis are terms used for eau-de-vie older than 50 years.
Some European desserts are finished in the pan and flambe’ (flamed) with Cognac. Delight of delights!
Salvatore Calabrese “The Maestro” – one of the world’s leading bartenders whose performance arena was at FIFTY in London’s St James made an analogy between Cognac, Armagnac, velvet and silk. Stroking velvet one feels a deep, rich texture, that’s Armagnac, but silk is pure finesse and that’s is Cognac.
In the movie The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) there is a dialogue in which Angel asked Holly: “Did he say you were like cognac?”
Holly: No, he said I was like champagne. I made his head spin.
Angel: Yeah, only you will be the one who winds up with a hangover.
Cognac is for fine palates, getting a hangover from it will lower that person a few steps. Ciao,
Copyright © 2012 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved
Valentina Cirasola has been a lifetime designer in fashion and interiors. Her extensive knowledge of colors and materials led her in both directions successfully. Vogue Italy featured her as the guru of staging a home in the theatrical way. Among designing and remodeling homes, designing custom-made furniture and writing books, Valentina is now teaching etiquette, table manners, table setting and life style. Check out her latest books Red-A Voyage Into Colors on the subject of colors, available on