Camper English is a freelance spirits and cocktails writer in San Francisco. He chronicles his explorations of fine drinking at Alcademics.
When we think of cognac cocktails, we think of the Sidecar, but we should also think of the Sazerac and Mint Julep and possibly the French 75. Poor cognac was kicked out of these cocktails in favor of home-grown bourbon, rye, and gin. But given the resurgence of interest in authentic, original classic cocktails, shouldn’t we give the grape spirit a second shot at glory in these drinks?
Of course we should, and the place to do so is at the Cognac, From Vines to Shaker seminar at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail. Session moderator and writer Jack Robertiello leads an all-star panel that includes Salvatore Calabrese, author of Coganc: A Liquid History and owner of Salvatore’s at Fifty in London; mixologist Jim Meehan, who runs the show at PDT in New York; and Jean-Louis Carbonnier, who handles PR for the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac in the United States.
Not all cognac drinks fell out of fashion, and some bartenders are doing their best to bring it back. Jim Meehan, for example, created the French Maid with cognac, cucumber, mint, falernum and house-made ginger beer. Another drink, The Summit, was created at the International Cognac Summit by a group of bartenders from around the world, and contains cognac, lime, ginger, lemonade, and a cucumber peel. One of these is likely to show up for sampling in front of session attendees.
Speakers will also cover what cognac is- an aged white grape brandy from a specified region of France double distilled via traditional methods- and what product labels like VS, VSOP, XO, and Extra mean. Most of that hasn’t changed in recent years, but now we’re seeing changes in how cognac is marketed. No longer relegated to the snifter, brands are promoting its use in cocktails and even launching new bottlings just to promote its mixability.
Talk topics will cover cognac’s history, its past and present use in cocktails, and how bartenders might include it more in the future. Thirsty learners might prepare for the future by ordering up some Cognac Juleps or Sazeracs in the meantime.
Cognac, from Vines to Shaker takes place Saturday, July 11, in the Riverview Room at the Hotel Monteleone. Tickets may be purchased here.