How To Drink Cognac Like A Pro And Enjoy Its Rich Flavors

How-To Guides

Man drinking brandy and smoking a cigar

Cognac is a luxurious drink that can be intimidating for those who haven't tried it before. But, by learning about how to drink cognac, you can appreciate this rich and complex spirit like a pro.

There are many ways to drink cognac. Some like it neat, while others enjoy it on the rocks. But there's more to cognac than that. This blog post will also discuss other methods of drinking cognac and provide some tips on making the most of each one. Let's get started!

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What You’ll Need

  • Bottle of Cognac - Pick your best cognac bottle. How you drink your cognac will depend on its age and quality.
  • Brandy or Cognac Glass - Traditionally, a brandy snifter is used, but in some cases, a large tumbler glass will also do.
  • Ice cubes - Use a large ice cube or sphere to not quickly water down the brandy.
  • Liquors, mixerscocktail garnishes, etc. - these are applicable when making mixed drinks with cognac. You can choose the ingredients required for a specific cocktail you like.
  • Cigar - Cigar and whiskey is an iconic pairing, but cigars also work well with other alcohols, like cognac. Consider the tasting notes of the cigar that you'll pair with your chosen bottle of cognac. They should match and complement each other.

    As per tradition, cognacs are best enjoyed with a fine cigar after you've had a hearty dinner meal.

  • Food - Several foods range from savory to sweet that pair very well with cognac. The type of cognac to indulge in will also depend on the dish.

How to Drink Cognac

Neat

Cognac in a snifter on a wooden board

1. Prepare a brandy snifter or tulip glass

These types of glass have the appropriate shape to experience the brandy fully. Its wide bowl allows the drinker to swirl the drink and the tapered rim lets the aromas directly hit the drinker's nose. 

2. Open your bottle of cognac and pour

Despite being made of wine, cognac doesn't need to be decanted or to breathe, so you can immediately serve it. Slowly fill about ¾ ounces of cognac into the glass at an angle.

3. Adjust the amount filled

Slowly position the glass horizontally and see if the liquid is not spilling. This is one way to know if you’re pouring the right amount of cognac in your glass.

If there’s still space, add a bit of cognac until you reach a point that the glass is full when tilted horizontally but not overflowing. 

4. Warm the cognac

Hold the glass by gripping the stem with your middle and ring finger. Ensure that your palm is touching the bowl of the snifter so your hand can warm the cognac.  

5. Swirl the brandy

Slowly move the glass in a circular motion to swirl the liquid inside. This process helps in opening up the aromas.

6. Observe the liquors’ colors

A cognac's color is an indicator of its potential age and quality. You can do this by tilting your glass of cognac under a bright light. If a cognac has a single light color, that means it's young. 

In contrast, dark-colored cognac with hues of amber and gold means it's seasoned with age.

7. Detect the aromas

Raise the glass first at chest level, and take a good whiff. You may take mental notes about your initial thoughts. Then, raise the glass at chin level and smell again. 

At this point, you can already smell some of the fruity aromas. Finally, take the glass close to your nose and inhale the different notes, spicy aromas, and complexities. See if you could recognize familiar scents.

8. Sip and indulge

To fully enjoy the complex flavors, only take tiny sips first, and don't swallow as soon as it enters your mouth. Hold it in and take your time recognizing all the flavors. Once you're satisfied, you can finally swallow the drink. 

Take notes on how they taste so when someone asks you, you can give them more insight about the drink. Then, you may take larger sips so you can explore all the other flavors and nuances. 

Optional: Add a drop of water

You can add 1 to 3 drops of water into your cognac to open up other flavors. Observe if there are differences in taste.

    On the Rocks

    Cognac on the rocks

    1. Get a tumbler glass or whiskey glass

    A tumbler glass is ideal for cognac on the rocks since it's large enough to have space for the ice cubes. You can also directly hold the glass's body. Although, the warmth from your hand can help melt the ice faster.

    2. Prepare large ice cubes

    Large ice cubes melt slower, so they don't dilute the brandy quickly. Use a reliable ice tray or silicone ice molds to make big clear ice cubes. Use only one ice cube or sphere if it fits the glass perfectly but if there's still space, use two ice cubes.

    3. Pour the liquor

    Fill about ¾ ounces of cognac into your tumbler glass and add the ice cubes.

    4. Let the cognac cool

    Gently swirl the glass about five times to reveal the aromas and make the brandy cold. Tilt the glass towards your nose and inhale deeply. Notice if the ice will show off notes that are not present in neat cognac!

    5. Take small sips

    After taking a sip, hold it in your mouth and try to differentiate straight cognac and cognac on the rocks. You will find that cognac with ice reveals lightness since the ice mellows out the potent flavors.

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      Cognac Cocktails

      If you find straight cognac to be too robust or too alcoholic, you can still enjoy the brandy by making delicious mixed drinks with it.

      Like vodkagin, whiskey, and other alcohols, cognac also plays a huge part in making some of the most classic cocktails. If you want to try some of them, check out these amazing cognac cocktails:

      • Sidecar

      Sidecar Cocktails

      When it comes to cocktails, this one is a classic. This beverage gets its sweetness from the orange liqueur and is balanced with lemon juice's tanginess. These are then combined with the smooth cognac traditional sugar-rimmed martini glass!

      If you haven't had the Sidecar yet, it tastes similar to a light fruity whiskey mixed with a bit of lemon.

      Get the recipe here.

      • Vieux Carre

      Vieux Carre Cocktail beside a spoon and bottle

      The Vieux Carré cocktail has been around for decades. It's complex, timeless, and just as popular as when it first came into existence in the 1930s in New Orleans!

      It is made with two bitters and a hint of herbal liqueur, which results in a drink with layers of flavor and complexity. You will also notice a slight sweetness, warmth, and spiciness with herbal, citrus, and smoky notes.

      Get the recipe here.

      • Sazerac

      New Orleans Sazerac Cocktail on a cutting board

      The Sazerac was invented in 1838 and is known as America's oldest cocktail. It is appropriately assigned as the flagship cocktail of New Orleans as it was created there. It has been loved ever since for its bold flavor that hits you at first sip with just enough kick to be satisfying.

      The combination of rye and cognac works because these complement each other so well and evoke some nostalgia.

      Get the recipe here.

      • Between the Sheets

      A glass of Between the Sheets Cocktail

      This drink has an interesting name but put simply, it's really just the Sidecar added with a bit of white rum. The extra ounce of white rum makes all the difference in this seemingly simple recipe! It adds some spice and sweetness that you might not have expected from such a refreshing cocktail.

      Get the recipe here.

      • French 75

      Two glasses of French 75 Cocktails 

      The French 75 is a fascinating cocktail first created in 1915 at Harry's New York Bar. The drink gets its name from the powerful French 75mm artillery gun.

      The cognac base provides a beautiful depth of flavor, while the lemon juice and Champagne give it a bright, zesty taste. And to balance the flavors with a slight sweetness, a little bit of simple syrup is added.

      Get the recipe here.

      • Corpse Reviver No. 1

      Corpse Reviver cocktail

      The Corpse Reviver No. 1 is a revitalizing cocktail designed to help ease the effects of a hangover. In 1930, the first recorded recipe for Corpse Reviver No. 1 was published in "The Savoy Cocktail Book."

      It is simply made with three ingredients: 1 ounce of Cognac and Calvados (another type of brandy) and half an ounce of sweet vermouth.

      Get the recipe here.

      • French Connection

      A glass of French Connection cocktail

      There are many myths about this cocktail, but the French Connection is commonly believed to be named after an eponymous movie that came out in 1971. It is still a famous drink today, because of its sweet taste and simple recipe.

      It is only made of equal parts of Cognac and Amaretto. This cocktail exhibits versatility as it is a fantastic digestif, after-dinner drink, or nightcap.

      Get the recipe here.

      • Brandy Alexander

      Brandy Alexander Cocktail with a jigger ion a wooden board

      The Brandy Alexander is among the most indulgent cocktails ever to hit drink menus.  It has been popular for most of the 20th century, and it doesn't seem like it will go out style any time soon.

      It is made by combining one ounce each of cognac and crème de cacao and half an ounce of cream in a cocktail shaker, then shaken until frothy. The result is a creamy dessert drink with hints of fruit, spices, and cocoa.

      Get the recipe here.

      • Cognac and Ginger Ale

      A glass of Cognac and Ginger Ale cocktail

      While this drink doesn't have an official name, it doesn't affect its excellent taste. It is another simple recipe made with 1½ ounces of cognac, topped with ginger ale, and served in a tall glass.

      The spiciness of the ginger brings out the fruitiness and spices of the cognac, resulting in a bubbly and invigorating drink that can be consumed any time of the day.

      Get the recipe here.

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      Cognac Food Pairings

      The complexities of cognac also make it an excellent drink to have when eating a delicious meal. Presented below are some of the dishes that are perfect for a glass of cognac.

      • Duck

      Roast duck with vegetables

      Duck's rich and fatty flavor develops an exquisite round velvety mouthfeel when paired with cognac.

      Martell V.S. or Remy VSOP are excellent pairings for rich and savory duck dishes like smoked duck or foie gras. Cognac can also round out the taste of the succulent meat and crispy skin of Peking duck.

      • Mushrooms

      Mushroom dish beside a whole mushroom

      The earthy and robust taste of mushrooms will benefit greatly when you pair cognac with it. The umami effect and the nutty, foresty notes of these fungi bring out some intense flavors in the cognac.

      The Rémy Martin 1738 Accord Royal is perfect with a wild mushroom risotto. The nutty and spicy notes in the cognac make this drink pop, giving you an extra layer of flavor that's hard to resist!

      • Cheese

      Different cuts of cheeses on a board

      Wine and cheese is a classic pairing, but cognac also has an intense bond with cheese. When pairing these two, consider the age of both drink and food. Old cognac pairs with aged cheese, while young cognac is perfect with less matured cheeses.

      Young cognacs taste like summer in a glass, with sweetness and flavors of fresh fruit. These go great when paired up with soft blue and creamy cheeses. On the other hand, old cognacs go well with Parmesan, Gouda, or Cheddar.

      • Sushi 

      Sushi set on a wooden plate

      If you see cognac and sushi as an unexpected pairing, you're not alone! Cognac is an excellent choice for enhancing the flavors in sushi. Its high acidity and refreshing fruity flavors help cut through the fatty tuna and uni.

      On the other hand, the sweetness found in some cognacs brings out some umami qualities and richness of the fish.

      • Seafood 

      Seafood Assorted with Lobster, Oysters, and Salmon Tartare

      Cognac and seafood isn't an obvious pairing, but it'll hit your soul if you try it! Chilled cognac goes perfectly well, especially with oysters, lobsters, and salmon.

      Chilling cognac allows it to reveal bright amber notes, which complements the saltiness found in oysters and balances out the richness found in lobsters and salmon. These sensations can be heightened even more when you serve cognac as a citrusy cocktail.

      • Chocolate

      Dark bitter chocolate chunks in a blue bowl

      Once you finish your dinner, you can enjoy a glass of cognac with pure black chocolate. The decadent and bitter flavors offset the pepper and ginger notes commonly found in cognac from the chocolate that makes for an interesting combination on the tongue.

      If you want to have texture, you can go for chocolate-covered nuts or chocolate-covered dried fruits.

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      Smoke a Cigar

      Man in a tuxedo holding a glass of Cognac and a cigar

      1. Choose your cigar and cognac

      When choosing a cigar, be mindful of its taste or characteristics. As a rule of thumb, full-bodied cognacs should go with full-bodied cigars, while light-bodied ones are for light cigars.

      2. Fill your glass

      Pour ¾ ounces of cognac into a cognac snifter glass. Cup the snifter with your palm to warm the drink.

      3. Light the cigar

      Take a puff of the cigar after each sip and take note of the flavors of both combining.

        Tips on Drinking Cognac

        The Age of Cognac Determines the Drinking Method

        The old or young cognac designation means that you should use old cognac if you're sipping it neat or when adding a drop of water to agitate the aromas and flavors.

        On the contrary, you must only use younger cognacs for your cocktail recipes since these don't have as much complexity as old ones. This makes them mix well with other ingredients.

        Serve at Room Temperature

        If you want to enjoy cognac at its full potential, it should be at room temperature. Make sure that you don't heat cognac in any way as this makes it lose its rich, complex flavors.

        If your cognac has been sitting in a storage below room temperature, allot an hour to set the drink to room temperature.

        If you can't afford one hour of waiting, pour the cognac into a brandy snifter and cup the glass with your hand. Let it stay there for a couple of seconds, and the drink will warm up.

        A Drop of Water Makes a Difference

        Drinking cognac neat is considered the traditional way of enjoying the drink. However, a little bit of water in a glass of cognac helps reveal spicy and fruity notes.

        In some cognacs, it'll make some soft notes more noticeable. In the same way, adding ice cubes to cognac makes it relatively chill and lessens the alcohol content.

        Choose the Right Glass

        Using the right glass for drinkers is crucial to their tasting experience. When it comes to tasting cognac, a snifter is the best choice. Its clever design allows for the evaporation and concentration of aromas.

        Its wide bowl also allows the easy distribution and collection of aroma compounds. Meanwhile, its narrow lips trap these smells, preventing them from escaping from the glass.

        If you don't have a snifter, you can use balloon or tulip glasses. Furthermore, when making cognac cocktails, you can use highball glasses or rocks glasses.

        Get to Know the Cognac Types

        There are different types of cognac based on the years they've been aged, like VS, VSOP, and XO, to name a few. It's crucial to know which type is needed for your drinking experience because the drinking method or the food/cigar pairing must coincide with the characteristics of cognac.

        Conclusion 

        Cognac is a fantastic drink that you can enjoy in many different ways. If you're looking for an easy way to enjoy it, we recommend drinking cognac neat to savor the pure taste of this beautiful spirit.

        But if you want something more than just straight alcohol, there are plenty of exciting options as well! You can try pairing cognac with food, drinking it on ice, adding mixers, or having it while puffing your favorite cigar.

        Whatever your preference is when enjoying cognac, you will surely have a fantastic time! If you have any questions about this topic, feel free to comment below.

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