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Cocktails: Brandy and Cognac

If you delve into the history of Cognac and Brandy, you will see that these spirits were drank in a very different way in the 18th and 19th centuries. In fact, if you happen to enter an old bar in France you might still see blue glass bottles with handles which used to be filled with seltzer water to be used with Cognac. Cognac and seltzer water was huge during this time, and may have remained primarily a cocktail spirit had not phylloxera went through the Cognac Vineyards and destroyed the vines.Because of phylloxera, Cognac all but disappeared in the 1870’s until the end of the 19th century because of the phylloxera.Because the grape spirit was not available, it was replaced with whisky in the UK, and whiskey in USA. As Cognac and Brandy became more readily available again (beginning of the 20thcentury), the grape spirit came to be marketed as an after dinner drink as this was the most readily available niche for it.

However, if we go back to the roots of Brandy and Cognac and how people originally enjoyed them, we find that as a cocktail spirit the they have a tremendous character to impart into the mixed drink with incredible taste intensity, finesse, complexity, tremendous aromas and great finish. The great bartenders of the past knew this and they created wonderful bar drinks for their patrons. In fact, many of our favourite whisky cocktails, the Mint Julep, the Old Fashioned and the Sazerac were originally meant for Brandy or Cognac.

These recipes (some of my creation) may seem heretical to today’s Brandy and Cognac enthusiast; but they are all rooted in the true history of when Brandy was the spirit of choice for  a typical mixed drink:


The Heretic Cocktail

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