It hardly seems a moment since we were enjoying the summer sunshine. But now here we are knee deep in glitter, Christmas carols, and that dreadful “what on earth do I get for Aunt Annie, my business partner, my DAD?!” dilemma.
Some things never change when it comes to the festive season, and thankfully one of those is the joy of cognac. One thing we really love about Christmas is all the different ways various producers and independents come up with to make enjoying eaux-de-vie. So we’ve come up with a top 7 list of how you can indulge your cognac addiction to your heart’s content right through the silly season…
1. Traditional Christmas Punch
Now, before you dismiss the idea of punch as an out dated and, frankly ridiculous, idea, take a moment to understand the seasoned history behind of the concept. Brought to the UK by sailors from the British East India Company in the early 1800s, it was actually first recorded as far back as 1632. Originally punch was made with a wine or brandy base and made with five ingredients: alcohol, sugar, lemon, water and tea or spices. These products combined together mixing sour and sweet, weak and strong with some bitter flavours to balance it all out.
For the best use of cognac in punch, try recreating what’s known as the Fish House Punch. This version originated in the USA and is a classic recipe that is ideal to serve at a Christmas party.
Ingredients: (1 part = 1 litre)
– Two parts dark rum
– One part cognac of your choice (a VS or your favourite VSOP)
– Two parts water
– One part lemon juice (with 1 ½ cups of sugar dissolved into it)
– Couple of hefty slugs of peach brandy.
Place all the ingredients in the fridge for a good few hours before making the punch. When they’re all suitably chilled, place in a large bowl and mix together. Place the largest block of ice you can find in the bowl, as it’s vital that this is served cold. Allow your guests to serve themselves, and enoy.
2. The Perfect Antidote to Christmas Shopping Stress
Let’s face it, Christmas shopping is stressful. Fun, admittedly, but stressful nonetheless. But for shoppers in London, England, when the queues get too much and those shopping bags just too heavy to carry any further, then head to the Four Seasons Hotel Bar at Canary Wharf for a Dickens inspired sundowner that really will sooth away the hustle and bustle of the world outside.
The hotel has introduced a festive cocktail collection based on the Charles Dicken’s classic novel, A Christmas Carol. Three delights are on offer, aptly named, The Ghost of Christmas Past, The Ghost of Christmas Present and The Ghost of Christmas Future.
For us, the star of the show has to be The Ghost of Christmas Past cocktail. This delight has Hennessy XO Cognac as its base, and is garnished with berries, dried orange, cinnamon and icing sugar. You can sip away whilst savouring the view of London’s iconic landmarks – The Shard, the River Thames and other silhouettes of famous buildings. It’s almost as if the thronging crowds below cease to exist – bliss!
3. Boozy Christmas Dinner Additions
Mince pies, Christmas pudding and brandy butter – show me anyone who doesn’t think this is the ultimate in calorie-splendid decadence! But it is Christmas, after all, and if you can’t think ‘blow the diet’ for the silly season, then when can you?
Of course, brandy butter can’t be made with any old brandy – it simply has to be cognac (in our humble opinion).
There are some good supermarket options for those who live in the UK. These include Cowbelle Brandy Butter with Courvoisier VS Cognac (Aldi supermarket), Extra Thick Champagne Cocktail Cream with Remy Martin Cognac (Sainsbury’s supermarket), and Tesco Finest Extra Thick Brandy Cream with Courvoisier VS Cognac (Tesco supermarket).
But our favourite way is to make our own brandy butter. And it’s surprisingly easy too…
– 180g butter
– 180g soft brown sugar
– 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
– 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
– 50g ground almonds
– 3 tablespoons of your favourite cognac (quality up to you, but for a luxurious twist, go for a VSOP or even an XO)
Ensure that the butter is cool and firm (but not rock hard). Dice into small pieces and cream a little. Add the sugar and cream further, but don’t over do it or it will end up too oily. Add the orange, lemon and ground almonds. Slowly add the cognac a tablespoon at a time. And even if you feel tempted to increase the amount of cognac, it’s advisable not to as it can make the butter too bitter. If you choose, you can also add a pinch of nutmeg or cinnamon, or even the contents of a vanilla pod if you so wish.
Make the butter a couple of days in advance, cover tightly and store in the fridge. If required it can be made well in advance and frozen until the big day.
4. An Elegant Christmas Drink to Share with Friends
When it comes to choosing the perfect Christmas cognac drink to prepare for friends and loved ones, you can’t beat the Christmas Citrus. Combining the delights of eaux-de-vie and festive tipples of Champagne, Marnier »”>Grand Marnier and Campari, this cocktail is best served in flickering candlelight whilst enjoying good conversation with those closest to you.
– ¾ oz of your favourite cognac (we recommend a good VSOP)
– ½ oz Grand Marnier
– ¼ oz Campari
– 3 ozs Champagne
– Slice of orange
Place the Cognac, Grand Marnier and Campari in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake! Strain into a wine goblet, top with the Champagne and a slice of orange. Enjoy…
5. Cognac on your Turkey! Whatever Next…?
If you’re looking to add a little drama to the Christmas dinner table, you can’t beat a bit of ‘flambe’.
This ‘Cognac Reduction Sauce’ is the ideal addition to the turkey on your table, and with a little bit of practice it’s easy enough to master the technique. Just ensure that you take care when mixing alcohol with fire – usual safety precautions are necessary.
Ingredients: (makes one cup)
– 1½ teaspoons of oil
– 1 turkey neck, cut into 2” pieces
– 2 tablespoons white wine
– 4 cups of chicken broth
– pan drippings from a roasted turkey
– ½ cup finely chopped shallots
– 3 sprigs of thyme
– 1 cup of cognac (we recommend a VS)
– 1 tablespoon chilled, unsalted butter cut into ½ inch pieces
– pinch of salt
– Make the turkey stock by heating the oil in a saucepan over a medium high heat. Add the turkey neck and sauté until golden brown.
– Remove the pan from the heat and add the wine. Scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Place back on the heat and cook until the wine is almost gone (approx. 1 minute).
– Add the chicken broth and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 30-40 mins (content should reduce by about 50%).
– Skim the fat from the surface, remove the neck pieces. Strain the stock and put to one side.
– Pour the turkey drippings into a fat separator, leaving about 1 tablespoon of the fat in the roasting pan. Separate the fat from the rest of the drippings, and keep the de-fatted part. Heat the roasting pan over a medium-heat, and add the shallots to sweat until soft. Stir in the thyme sprigs and cook for approx. 1 minute.
– Remove pan from heat and add the cognac. Using a long match, ignite the cognac and let it burn until the alcohol is burnt off (about a minute). It should go out on it’s own, but if not place a lid over the pan to extinguish the flame.
– Bring pan back over a medium-high heat and cook until it’s reduced by about 80%. Stir with wooden spoon whilst cooking to loosen all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the turkey stock and stir well.
– Remove pan from the heat and strain into a medium saucepan. Bring back over heat and simmer for several minutes until reduced to approx. 1 cup. Add the reserved pan drippings and stir. Cook (stirring from time to time) until sauce thickens slightly and is reduced to about 1 cup.
– Remove from heat and swirl in the butter to melt it. Season with salt if needed and serve immediately.
6. The Mincemeat Irish Cocktail
What! You may well be thinking. But hear us out before you judge, because the ‘Mincemeat Irish’ is a collaboration between JJ Goodman (of London’s Cocktail Club) and UK supermarket, Sainsbury’s, produced specifically for the mince pie obsessed Brits.
And this cocktail is amazingly tasty, as well as being simple to produce at home.
– 50ml Irish Cream liqueur (such as Baileys)
– 25ml of your favourite VSOP or XO Cognac
– 2 teaspoons of fruit mincemeat
– 25ml whole milk
– Clementine, whole
Put all of the ingredients (except the clementine) into a cocktail shaker full of ice. Shake for 10 seconds and strain into a martini glass filled with ice (or short glass if you wish). Strip a zest of the clementine peel and twist over the glass orange side down. This sprays oils over the drink and give a great smell as you take a sip.
7. You can’t beat the Traditional Christmas Drink…
… of a classic Eggnog. After all, the festive season is all about traditions – both those followed by people nationwide (and worldwide), as well as those that every family creates for themselves over the years. Here’s how to make the perfect Eggnogg.
– 6 large eggs, separated
– ¾ cup of superfine sugar
– 2 cups of whole milk
– 3 cups of heavy cream, plus some extra for the garnish
– ½ cup of bourbon
– ¼ cup of dark rum
– ¼ cup of your favourite cognac – a VSOP or an XO if you really want to splash out
– Freshly grated nutmeg for sprinkling
Beat the egg yolks together in a large bowl until they become thickened and pale in colour. Then slowly beat in the sugar, followed by whisking in the milk and 2 cups of the cream. Gently mix in the bourbon, rum and cognac. Cover and place in the fridge for up to a day. When ready to serve, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks and fold into the eggnog. With the remaining cream, whisk until if forms stiff peaks, and fold into the eggnog mixture. Or, if you prefer, fold half into the eggnog mixture and top the drinks with the remaining. Sprinkle nutmeg on the top and serve.
Sources: goodfood.au, thebespokeblackbook.com, telegraph.co.uk, theguardian.com, thespec.com, dailymail.co.uk, marthastewart.com, sheknows.com