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Posts Tagged ‘Blood Orange Bitters’

Cocktail Hour: Cognac Servings

Posted by Arctic Wolf on October 17, 2016

If you delve into the history of Cognac, you will find that the spirit was drank in a very different manner 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. The grape spirit may have remained a mixing spirit had not phylloxera arrived and ravaged the European vineyards.

Because of phylloxera, Cognac all but disappeared in the 1870’s, and it remained a relatively rare spirit until the end of the 19th century. During this time, it was gradually replaced in bars and restaurants by whisk(e)y in both the United Kingdom and North America. When the vineyards recovered and Cognac became more readily available near the beginning of the 20thcentury, it had to find a new market niche to occupy. For this reason, the grape spirit came to be promoted as an after dinner sipping drink rather than as a spirit meant mixed drinks and cocktails.

Brandy Crusta (1878) SAM_1069_1

Brandy Crusta

However, if we go back to the roots of Cognac and how people originally preferred to enjoy the spirit, we find that as a cocktail spirit it has tremendous appeal. Cognac displays intense taste and aromas, great complexity, and a wonderful finish. The original bartenders knew this, and with cognac they created many classic bar drinks for their patrons. In fact, some of our favourite whisky cocktails, the Mint Julep, the Old Fashioned and the Sazerac were originally mixed with Brandy and Cognac.

The recipes I have selected below (click on the mixed drink servings to go to each recipe page) may seem heretical to today’s Cognac enthusiast; but they are all rooted in the true history of the grape spirit which was the original spirit of choice for bartenders who created mixed drinks and cocktails.

Please enjoy these cocktail servings and if you are interested in other libations, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!

Chimo!

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Review: Hennessy Very Special Cognac

Posted by Arctic Wolf on February 14, 2015

Hennessy V.S.Hennessy Cognac is produced from the fruity Ugni Blanc grape picked from one of the four great crus of the Cognac region (Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies and Fins Bois). The grape wine produced from the Ugni Blanc harvest is (of course) double distilled upon Hennessy’s own copper Charentes Stills, and then selected eaux-de-vie is set down to age for several years in french oak casks which have constructed from old growth oak timbers.

In 1865, Maurice Hennessy, the great-grandson of the original founder, devised a cognac classification system based upon varying numbers of stars which defined the quality of the bottled spirit. Again the classification devised by Hennessy was later adopted by the entire industry. Today, Hennessy’s Three Star Cognac, is now known as Hennessy Very Special (VS).

Blood Orange Bitters SAM_1369

Blood Orange Bitters

You may read my full review here:

Review: Hennessy Very Special Cognac

” … I allowed the glass to breath for a few minutes and was pleased by the melding of aromas that resulted. The oak, the caramel toffee and the fruit all coexist harmoniously with no particular element outshining any other. I notice some new smells of rich vanilla and honeycomb rising into the air; as well, some nutty smells of almond and walnut are wafting in the breezes as well …”

I hope you enjoy this review which concludes with a very nice cocktail which I found on the Jas Hennessy & Co. website, Blood Orange Bitters. It is as tasty as it sounds!

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Ten Great Cognac Cocktails for 2015

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 4, 2015

Baby Doll

Baby Doll

During the month of December, I had a lot of fun tasting Cognac and researching different ways to enjoy the spirit. In the course of my research I was able to speak directly with experts from both small Cognac Houses like Pierre Ferrand, and larger houses like CAMUS. I also visited many of the producer’s websites, and the recurring theme was that the Cognac industry appears to be embracing the new cocktail revolution. In fact most of the websites I visited offered a variety of recipes for the consumer to enjoy with not just their VS Cognac, but also with their VSOP, and XO Cognac.

When I spoke directly with Richard Bush, the Area Manager (US Travel Retail, Canada and the Caribbean) for Camus Wines & Spirits, he told me that their CAMUS Cognac is not just for sipping in a brandy snifter. It can (and should) be enjoyed in a variety of other ways. In fact, when Richard served me a glass of his very special CAMUS Elegance Extra (see review here), he suggested that this expensive spirit could be tossed into the freezer overnight, and then served in a tulip shaped glass like a glencairn after it was thoroughly chilled. The idea is to slowly sip the Cognac over the course of an hour or so such that you may experience a fuller spectrum of flavours which are revealed as the spirit slowly warms in the glass. (You can try this with any premium sipping spirit, and if you do you will enjoy a similar delightful experience whether this be Rum, Whisky, or even Anejo Tequila.) Richard also offered his support to the notion that Cognac and Cocktails are partners which have a long history together.

I found myself wholeheartedly agreeing with Richard, and when I published my Cognac Review Series, The 12 Cognacs of Christmas, I tried to convey the sentiment that Cognac is a much more versatile spirit than many persons suppose. I made the point in many of my reviews that one of the great ways to enjoy this premium spirit is in a fine cocktail. I suggested that bar drinks made with Cognac are not to be scoffed at, rather they are an intrinsic part of the enjoyment of the spirit. The truth is that mixing cocktails with Cognac has a tradition which dates back to the very earliest cocktails constructed by the original American bartenders who pioneered the art of mixology.

In keeping with the theme of serving great Cognac cocktails, I thought I would give you a list of ten of my favourite cocktail discoveries which I embraced during my review series. They are listed in no particular order, and if you are interested in making one for yourself just click on the highlighted name of the cocktail to be linked to its recipe page.

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1878 Cocktail SAM_1392

1878 Brandy Cocktail

1) 1878 Brandy Cocktail (In the nineteenth century different styles of bar drinks had their own names, the Crusta, the Smash, and the Julep just to name a few. At that time, the word ‘cocktail’ was reserved for a specific type of bar drink, which closely resembles what we call the Old-Fashioned Cocktail today. How the word ‘cocktail’ evolved to encompass all classes of bar drinks is unknown to me; but if you want to go back in time and build an original ‘Brandy Cocktail’, Leo Engels’ 1878 Bartender’s Guide, American and Other Drinks (and a nice bottle of Cognac), is a great starting place.)

2) Baby Doll (Very similar the modern Side Car except that it usually specifies the use of Courvoisier Cognac as the brandy of choice and Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge as the orange liqueur of choice in the construction of the recipe. It really doesn’t matter what we call this particular bar drink; the point is that it is delicious!)

3) Heretic (Because, some of my friends believe it is sacrilegious to mix brandy or cognac in bar drinks and cocktails, I decided to create my own heretical cocktail which features both a cognac and a well aged brandy. And for the record, it is a thoroughly delightful cocktail!)

4) 1878 Brandy Crusta (I also dug this cocktail out of Leo Engel’s 1878 amazing bartender’s guide, American and Other Drinks. It is not necessarily easy to make in its original format; but with the right Cognac, it is certainly worth the trouble to construct.)

5) Blood Orange Bitters (I found this recipe on the Hennessy Cognac website (which has quite a few more great looking recipes). Hennessy and I agree that orange and lemon are great complimentary flavours for brandy or Cognac!)

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The Classic SAM_1370

The Classic

6) The Classic Cocktail (The truth is that Brandy and Cognac are perhaps the original cocktail mixers. It was not until these spirits all but disappeared in the 1870’s (until the end of the 19th century because of the phylloxera), that other spirits such as whisky, rum and gin began to dominate the mixed drink category. Here is a recipe which has its roots firmly fixed in those earlier times when Brandy and Cognac were kings of the cocktails.)

7) 1878 Mint Julep (The original Mint Julep was probably made with Cognac, not whiskey, in the early nineteenth century. The recipe I am sharing here is loosely based upon the Mint Julep construction found in Leo Engels’, American and Other Drinks. This classic cocktail has stood the test of time and tastes every bit as good today as it did almost 200 years ago.)

8) French Presbyterian (The tall Presbyterian Cocktail is a simple bar drink which mixes Scotch Whisky with ginger ale and soda water. When made with Cognac, I believe it is more appropriate to call this construction a French Presbyterian. This cocktail is hard to beat when a long refreshing dink is called for.)

9) Wisconsin Old Fashioned (This is a regional cocktail which has been receiving bit of press in the cocktail blogs lately. It is not to be confused with the more well-known Old Fashioned Cocktail; however, this favorite of the Dairyland state is definitely yummy in its own right!)

10) Medusa Coil (This is a cocktail of my own construction which evolved when I wanted to put a somewhat modern spin on a traditional (or maybe the right word is ‘classic’) cocktail. I began with a Leo Engels 1878 Brandy Crusta, and with a few additions and subtractions, I arrived at what I call the Medusa Coil. I think it is very good, and I am hoping some of you will try it as well.)

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