Everywhere you look nowadays you find recipes for various different cognac cocktails.  And of course, the cognac producers themselves have been quick to notice this and to produce tipples appropriate for this particular usage.  With the commencement of this year’s London Cocktail Week Exhibition and Courvoisier’s involvement, this shows just how seriously the cocktail drinks market is being taken.


So, what are the best types of cognac to use when mixing up the flavours of various cocktails?  Much as some may like to splash in the more expensive, older blends, the younger VS or VSOP really are better for this purpose, especially when it comes to cocktails like the ‘Summit’ which uses a large amount of other ingredients.  The younger cognacs are more intense and aggressive which will shine through in the melee of different tastes which mix together in a cocktail.  Realistically, it really is not necessary to use the more mature, XO blends as the smoother taste will be lost in the mixture.

merlet cognac »”>Merlet Cognac produces ‘Brother’s Blend’ especially for use in cocktails: It consists of a 4-5 year old eaux-de-vie. Hennessy have their ‘black’ cognac, a premium spirit again designed for this use and also other producers have cocktail specific products.

You can find many different recipes for cocktails containing cognac, including ‘Pulp Fiction,’ ‘Hoopla,’ ‘Dispuronno Darkness’ and ‘Vanderbilt,’ and the trend among younger drinkers is increasing on a monthly basis.

There is definitely a geographical trend towards using cognac in cocktails.  In the US, the popularity is high, and there are more sales of VS and VSOP varieties.  However, in Asia, the popularity is much more towards the straight drinking varieties and older XO qualities.  It seems that the popularity of cognac cocktails has yet to gain a foothold here, or neat-drinking is simply very popular.

The trap: Who knows, who cares?

Now let’s think about this: The consumers will not be able to distinguish between different cognacs, when mixed. So why should one buy a $40-50 Cognac, when there is one available for $17? As they are mixed in cocktails anyway, who can tell the difference? You get the point… When you are in a nightclub, who actually really cares about which cognac is in that sweet cocktail?

So, does this cocktail trend pose any threat to the quality of cognacs which will continue to be developed and produced?  Probably not, as whilst the producers will continue to extend the VS and VSOP blends for cocktails, the fact that China is proving to be the fastest and largest growing market, will ensure that the XO’s and older qualities will most definitely remain high priority.

So, however you prefer your eau-de-vie, you can rest easy that both tastes will remain well catered for.

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Jacki has been with Cognac Expert from virtually the beginning. She's the senior editor of the blog, and has spent much of her life living in rural France. Today she's based back in the UK, where she splits her working life between writing for Cognac Expert and working as a Paramedic at a large regional hospital.

1 Comment

  1. Avatar
    Ben Leggett

    A few very good questions posed in the classic debate of “mixing with cognac”. History shows us that the world learned to mix earlier with french brandy more widely then gins and rums and well before vodka and whisky became popular. We have references back to the 16th century where brandy was mixed in early punch then popularized in europe by the end of the 17th century continuing through to when the first cocktail was even defined in 1806. Which brings us on another interesting point – what is a cocktail?

    These days there is a different cocktail for every person in the world, creamy, blue, long, short, hot, cold, eggy, fizzy, foamy and flat. In my opinion its not ‘should’ it be mixed but ‘how’ that is the essential question. Like with all fine ingredients the age and blend of your cognac should not be lost however you mix it otherwise the price is indeed irrelevant. In nightclubs its commonly sold as people want to be seen drinking cognac over tasting it. In a juxtaposition cocktails based on the original 1806 definition (a “bittered sling” involving a spirit, bitters and sweetener) are all you need to enhance a complex spirit without overtaking it but commonly involve a touch more of practice and patience.

    For more specific examples refer to recipes for;
    – Sazerac (the original was with cognac Sazerac-de-Forget et Fils),
    – Cognac Old Fashioned,
    – Harvard (Manhattan with Cognac)
    – Mint Julep (the original was with cognac)

    All of which are well over 100 years old some even over 200 – therefore have we just forgotten how to take time and appreciate a good quality cocktail?

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