There’s no getting away from it—the run up to Christmas and the festivities is well and truly under way. Many people wonder what it’s like to be in the city of Cognac for the holidays. Below is a first hand account from one who lives here, from an ex-pats point of view. And if there’s ever a time of year to celebrate with the world’s favorite brandy, then this has to be it. From baking to cocktails, special Christmas eau-de-vie to unique flavorings, it can be Cognac themed all the way. So enjoy the merriment (and if you need a little inspiration for further Christmas Cognacs to sample, check out our article, The 10 Most Festive Cognacs For the Holidays).
Festive Cognac (the town): A personal account
Cognac during the holiday season, like many other French cities of its size, is full of lights, children’s shows, and gift markets. There is a slight difference, and a noticeable one this year: there are lots of festive cocktails containing Cognac to go around!
Last year two new cocktail bars opened: Luciole and Bar Louise. Their presence has significantly bettered our Cognac-tasting experience, (and I personally believe they will continue doing that for a long time coming).
As an American expat, when Bar Louise held its first Sunday brunch event I knew that my place had to be at their table. Like I said when I shared my Cognac pumpkin pie recipe for Thanksgiving, the town in the US where I grew up still had Prohibition-type laws in effect. Had we been living in America, this would’ve meant that taking children to a drinking establishment would’ve have been unthinkable (even if I’d wanted to).
But we’re in France. So with our three children (aged from 1 and a half to six years-old) in tow (and a grandmother too, thank goodness) Jean and I ventured out to brunch. And in the middle of a storm, I might add. On arrival we found a delightful ambiance, with many other children happily joining in the fun. The food was more French than American; not a problem in my book. And the cocktails were way more exotic than your usual Mimosa.
Take a look at the menu! Perhaps you can recreate it at home for your own holiday party. We will certainly try at our house. But we’re also very lucky to be able to go to Bar Louise every month from here on out to experience a brand new Sunday brunch 12 times a year.
Drawing on his own experience in the UK, Guillaume from Luciole has begun another holiday tradition. One that is certainly not so foreign to me: Christmas sweaters! This was something my very French husband simply could not understand back in the late 2000s when he celebrated his first Christmas with my family. Now they are readily available in France.
Jean and Amy Pasquet from Cognac Pasquet
Mince pies, sugar cookies, mulled wine, and even eggnog, along with our super jumpers, as the Brits like to call them, all made the event memorably enjoyable. Even if hot wine is not your thing, then naturally Cognac cocktails were on the menu. Again, I am sharing the photo, but I am happy to have the Luciole crew managing the doses and the shakers.
We are absolutely going to spice up our family dinner on the 25th with a cocktail or two. Will you?
This was an experience that Amy, from Pasquet Cognac, and her family enjoyed. Thanks to her for this contribution, and the great photos.
Fancy baking a cake?
Have we ever shared the fact that on our estate in Cognac we’re lucky enough to successfully grow walnuts? So for the holiday season, we wanted to pair these home-grown delicacies with our love of Cognac. And what better way to do this that by making a Pumpkin Cheesecake—with a scrumptious nutty sauce.
We particularly love this recipe by David Lebovitz: Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Praline Sauce—it truly is delicious. We substituted our home grown walnuts for the pecans, and used Courvoisier VSOP Cognac instead of the bourbon. And we have to say, it really worked! For anyone who wants to add a homemade touch to their holiday celebrations, this recipe is ideal. It’s simple to follow, plus it takes into account that we all need some time-friendly aspects when it comes to home baked delights. Not to mention how yummy it is.
That special Cognac touch
We’d love to share with you a unique method of adding the wonders of Cognac to your holiday baking, cooking, and cocktail masterpieces.
The first is by using the magic of Boinaud Oaker. This is a wonderfully innovative product from this forward thinking house, and allows you to add aromatic Cognac flavor wherever and whenever you choose. Oaker is an alcoholic flavor enhancer, that’s been created from a Cognac infusion aged in heavily toasted French oak, distilled, and aged in old Cognac barrels. It’s at 44% ABV, so will certainly add a kick to your fish, meat, or vegetables. And it’s a wonderful addition to that perfect Cognac cocktail.
And our second Cognac secret? Well, it’s the sister product of Oaker, called Boinaud Smoaker. Once again, this is a never-before-seen product that you can use to infuse your cookery masterpieces with intense aromas of Cognac. The ultimate recycling product, it’s been made by grinding up ancient Cognac barrels that for years have held delicious eau-de-vie, allowing Mother Nature to gently age them and do her thing. The Smoaker chips can be used al fresco, on the BBQ, or even indoors, to smoke and ensure that you can enjoy the delicacies of Cognac in a very different manner. Try it with white or red meats, and it’s delicious married with vegetables such as eggplant.
But it doesn’t end there. Because there’s another unique way to add Cognac luxury to your holiday celebrations. It’s by using De Luze Pearls, a wonderful twist for dishes of all kinds, both sweet and savory. These Pearls are made from XO Fine Champagne Cognac that’s been reduced down to an 8.5% ABV and literally created into small pearls. What a fun way to dress up your dishes, and certainly ones that will be a real dinner table talking point.
Of course, there’s a lovely selection of Christmas Cognacs that are on offer. We love the Jean Fillioux & Rod Christmas Cognac, a VSOP offering that will certainly well grace the table at any festive event.
But that’s not the only such Cognac that’s a great choice for the holidays. Another quality choice is the ABK6 VSOP Single Estate Cognac. With a rich, spicy palate that offers apple tones, cinnamon, and toffee aromas, it really is a Cognac for the season. It’s also beautifully presented in a handsome bottle. It’s a great choice for your own holiday collection, or will make a well received gift for any Cognac lover.
Or how about the De Luze XO de Noel Cognac, specifically designed for the season. This extra old Cognac will look perfect on the festive dinner table, with its snowflake design bottle and silver frosted box. It’s also a limited edition, so a great one to add to any collection.
Other options for festive VSOP Cognacs include the award winning offerings, Camus VSOP Ile de Re Fine Island, the Camus Borderies Limited Edition VSOP, and the delightful Remy Martin VSOP by Vincent Leroy Limited Edition.
Or make your own
Yes, you really can do this. But don’t worry, it’s not necessary to purchase a pot still, oak barrels, or take a 10 year course on the art of Cognac making. Because the kind folks at Normandin Mercier have made it very easy for anyone to do this.
Introducing the Normandin Mercier DIY Christmas Cognac. It includes a bottle of high quality, Petite Champagne VSOP Cognac, and a blending kit. Together the two marry to create a lovely seasonal flavor. All you need do is add the blending kit to the bottle of Cognac, and leave for a minimum of five days. The resulting blend offers the luxury aromas of candied fruits, cinnamon, clove, coffee, star anise, cardamom, and more. It’s a fun item to own this season. Or, if you’re looking for a gift with a true ‘wow’ factor, then it’s the ideal choice for anyone who enjoys the finer things in life.
‘Tis the season to… Drink cocktails
Of course it is. And we highly recommend checking out our article on the Best Cognac Cocktails.
The Cognac giant, Hennessy, have also released a list of holiday cocktails that they refer to as Hennessy x Ginger. As the name suggests, it’s all about combining the wonders of their Cognacs with the spiciness of ginger. Now, they suggest using Hennessy VS as the Cognac of choice. Which of course works superbly. But for that extra touch of pizzazz, we suggest using a VSOP as a minimum. Or if you’re feeling really, really decadent, then an XO will certainly up the ante.
The following are all simple to create, and are the perfect drinks to offer guests over the party season:
Hennessy Ginger Mule
Hennessy Very Special 50ml
Fresh lime juice 20ml
Ginger beer 100ml
Combine the Cognac and lime juice into a copper mule. Add the ice cubes, top with ginger beer, and stir. Garnish and serve.
Hennessy Ginger Ale & Lime
Hennessy Very Special 40ml
Fresh lime juice 20ml
Ginger ale 120ml
Place the Cognac and lime juice in a tumbler glass. Add the ice and top with ginger ale. Stir, garnish, and serve.
An alternative, for a spicier option, is to substitute ginger beer for the ginger ale.
Hennessy Ginger Mint Punch
Hennessy Very Special 400ml
Cinnamon syrup 100ml
Sugar syrup 50ml
Ginger ale 600ml
Mint leaves 1 bunch
Ginger 20 slices
Cinnamon 10 sticks
Place the Cognac, cinnamon syrup, and sugar syrup into a punch bowl. Add the cinnamon sticks, mint leaves, and ginger ale. Then add the ice cubes, stir for 15 seconds and serve.
Whatever you create—be it a cake, pie, a 5-course gourmet meal, the perfect cocktail, or whatever, be sure to enjoy. Because that’s the whole ethos behind the our love of Cognac. It’s one of life’s little luxuries. And just as it takes a long time to create the perfect Cognac, so too should you take the time to revel in your Cognac habit. Happy holidays, everyone. Here’s to taking life easy for a little while…