Enjoying your favorite Cognac as an appetizer or digestif is a familiar pleasure. But a Cognac for every course? Yes—it really is a thing!
A Cognac Food Pairing for Every Course
Cognac food pairing opens up an avenue of sensory experiences that brings a decadent angle to any dinner party. The nuances of individual eau-de-vie can be selected to complement all types of foods: from spicy meat dishes, delicate fish cuisine, right through to rich desserts and cheese boards.
As the saying goes—the world (of Cognac) is your oyster…
The appetizer, or hors d’oeuvre, is designed to stimulate the appetite. So the key for a great choice of Cognac is lightness—one that doesn’t overpower and that perfectly matches the anticipation of the meal ahead.
Think about the nose, the palate and, most importantly, the texture (mouthfeel) as well. Rather than a neat Cognac, you may prefer a young VS and mixer of your choice. Such a combination is ideal at this early stage of the gastronomic experience.
The multi-award winning Camus VS Elegance Cognac is a great choice, perhaps with tonic or soda over ice.
Enter the Entrée
We continue the theme of lightness as we move to the entrée (or starter). Consider what’s being served. Fish, such as oysters, salmon, or shrimp, pair deliciously with very refined and floral Cognac, particularly those from Grande Champagne.
Top tip: With oysters, caviar, or prawns, try serving the Cognac chilled—or even frozen—for an incredible sensation. The first sip, followed by an oyster, will taste completely different to the second.
Smoked fish dishes are well-complemented by an older offering, such as the Jacques Denis Grande Champagne VSOP.
Finally, pair cooked seafood with a floral Cognac, like the Normandin Mercier Grande Champagne 10 Years 2009.
Main Course Mayhem: From vegan to meat-eater delights
The purists will tell you that as the meal progresses, so should the age of the Cognac. However…. While we love tradition, we’re also keen ambassadors of doing it your way.
Therefore, the age aspect should be regarded as more of a loose guideline than a rule to be rigidly enforced. After all, many classic red meat dishes (lamb, beef) are well complemented by a VSOP. But as main courses often tend to be richer, the older, more developed tones of an XO can be a good choice, especially with intense flavors of dishes such as game.
Spicy Cognacs make for the perfect partner in crime. Consider the age-old classic, Martell Cordon Bleu or, if you prefer a Cognac from a smaller house then we can recommend the Braastad XO Fine Champagne.
Vegetarians and vegans, don’t worry—we haven’t forgotten about you. Cognac pairs beautifully with mushrooms, especially those with earthy flavors.
As many vegetarian dishes are, by nature, lighter in tone, then a quality VSOP is often a great choice. The award winning ABK6 VSOP Single Estate Cognac would be well worth your consideration.
If you only choose to pair Cognac with a single course, then we recommend saving it for dessert. The classic combination of eau-de-vie and sugary sweetness is, quite simply, exquisite. Dark chocolate dishes call for a rich, older Cognac, whereas fun desserts, such as crunchy hazelnut praline or those with white chocolate, can be enjoyed with a vibrant VS straight from the freezer.
The Louis Royer VS is a great option, and has been the recipient of many industry awards.
Tarte Tatin, on the other hand, pairs beautifully with the maturity of an XO, thanks to the sweetness of the sugar. The same applies to nut-based desserts. But if going for a less sweet, more fruity option, then a good VSOP works well.
Exquisitely Cheesy: We save the best ‘till last…
Cheese and Cognac are the ultimate bedfellows; the saltiness pairs like a dream. The delights of cheeses such as Mimolette, Camembert, Emmental, Parmesan, and Manchego will all be intensified by the intricacy of a truly old XO palate or, ideally, an even older Hors d’Age.
While we love the classics (Louis XIII, Tesseron Extreme, etc.) looking to the smaller Cognac houses for extremely well-aged Cognacs can bring extraordinary rewards. The multi-award winning Deau Louis Memory is a perfect example of how refined an Hors d’Age can be, without costing the earth.
Make it a Shared Experience
The best thing about pairing Cognac with food is the communal experience. The beauty of sampling certain dishes and eau-de-vie is the discussion that it promotes. Different flavors and aromas will emerge for each person. It’s entirely subjective, yet a wonderful moment shared between friends and family.
For the host, using pauses between meals gives the chance to introduce a Cognac and explain why you’ve chosen to pair it with this dish in particular.
Using our pairing guide and blog, we recommend doing some history on the bottle itself. Aspects you’ll want to include in your explanation include the age, terroir, and the aromas, flavors, and tones your guests might expect to experience.
Experimentation is Fun!
One of the things we love so much about Cognac is that there really are no rules. Sure, there’s plenty of advice from experts. But in all reality, it’s all about personal preference—and don’t let anyone tell you differently.
The takeaway from this is to try, try, and try again. Think about the food on offer and how a Cognac’s personality will combine and complement. Strong food flavors might need a robust Cognac—but to flip that rule on its head, would a lighter Cognac be the best companion to showcase two different aspects of flavor? It’s all about trial and error, and that’s what makes Cognac food pairing such a roller coaster journey to be savored. Quite simply, introducing a fine Cognac makes for a fantastic culinary experience, not to mention being a real talking point.
We’re off to enjoy some sushi washed down with a Borderies blend, a particularly cherished combination…