Cognac Cocktails with De Luze VSOP

I was recently lucky enough to find a bottle of De Luze VSOP Cognac in my possession and so thought I’d look at making some high-end Cognac cocktails.

Sidecar with De Luze VSOP cognac

First, here’s a little about the history behind this Cognac. In 1822, Baron Alfred De Luze founded a company that went onto purchase vineyards in Grande Champagne and Margaux; areas well-known for the quality of grapes produced there. This must have come through in the quality of their Cognac, because De Luze were granted the Royal Warrant by King Christian X of Denmark in 1927. More recently, in 2006, De Luze were bought by the Boinaud Family, which is the largest private wine growers of the Cognac Appellation (the region in France where wines used to produce Cognac must come from).

A Fine Champagne Cognac must have at least half of its Cognacs originating from the Grande Champagne region, specifically, but De Luze VSOP Fine Champagne is a blend with over 70% from this region. They are all between 10 and 12 years of age, with the oldest, according to the website, coming from the 1989 harvest.

So how does it taste?

Own
Smooth and flavourful, this has a rich and complex taste with a hint of crème brûlée and dried fruit, as well as some deeper notes, such as dark chocolate and cinnamon. This is definitely something that’s easy to sip and savour over an evening.

Sidecar
This was a superb drink: clean, crisp and tart. It was very fresh and the strong flavours of the Cognac come through, whilst remaining smooth. The drink remains vibrant, but well-rounded, with its sharpness offsetting the alcohol.

Sazerac with De Luze VSOP Cognac

Sazerac
Superb! Exceptionally smooth and mellow, with complex herbal notes, anise and a touch of vanilla at the end. It also had a great balance of warmth and refreshment, providing a drink that you can really just sink into, without being too heavy. The comforting finish ended with  a hint of ginger warmth, reminding me of a long, relaxing bath.

Thoroughbred
This is a fancy Horse’s Neck, made using Cognac instead of brandy and a high-end (imported, ooh la la!) ginger ale. Notably, Q-Ginger, from the folks that brought us Q-Tonic. This made yet another superb drink, being both complex and refreshing. The full flavour of the Cognac comes through, followed by citrus and a sweet, fruity zing. I found it to be less sweet and more sophisticated than a usual Horse’s Neck. Very classy.

Thoroughbred (Horse's Neck) with De Luze VSOP Cognac and Q Ginger Ale

Thoroughbred (Horse's Neck) with De Luze VSOP Cognac and Q Ginger Ale

Stinger
This is a cloudy light brown mixture, with the flavour of dark sugar and a menthol note at the end. As you drink it, it begins to clear in the glass and the flavours of the Cognac become more prominent, with the mint flavour taking a back seat. This a crisp and refreshing cocktail and a great alternative to an after dinner mint. I can see why James Bond enjoys it with coffee in ‘Diamonds are Forever’ (at the 21 Club in New York).

In Conclusion

Cognac is an excellent base for certain cocktails and is always worth considering when you want a drink where you can appreciate the underlying flavours. The Sidecar as always been a favourite of mine and I think it always will be. That said I love the Thoroughbred too!

Millionaire’s Cocktails

 

From Left-Right: Millionaire Sazerac, Millionaire Martini, Millionaire Manhattan, Millionaire Bramble, Millionaire Gimlet, Millionaire Brandy Alexander, Millionaire's Sidecar

During London Cocktail Week, I was told about “Millionaire’s” cocktails; these are essentially variations of any cocktail that are made as usual, but topped up with a small amount of champagne. Thus you can add a “touch of glamour” to any drink by making it a Millionaire’s version.

For example:

Millionaire’s Manhattan:

2oz Rye Whisky

1oz Red Vermouth

1 dash Angostura Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a glass (making sure that the drink does not fill the glass).

Top up the cocktail with 1oz of Champagne.

With New Year’s Eve around the corner, I thought it would be fitting to look at some Millionaire’s cocktails so that you might be best equipped to try one on the big night.

Millionaire’s Martini
(Using Brokers Export Gin & Home Made Vermouth, 6:1 Ratio, Stirred)
As a Martini fan, I was intrigued to try this, although I am aware that some folk may see this as an abomination akin to the Death in the Afternoon.
It’s fair to say that I didn’t hold out much hope for the taste, but I was wrong: it wasn’t the best, but worked surprisingly well. It produced a very dry drink with the dry vermouth and dry Champagne working together; it may, in fact, be a touch too dry for some. I also quite liked the addition of bubbles.

Millionaire’s Sazerac
This definitely works and goes beyond the novelty of adding Champagne. It gives the cocktail a lighter feel. You meet the flavours of the whisky and anise at the beginning, with the taste of the bubbly coming through at the end. This reminded Mrs. B of liquorice; it is possible that the bubbles brought out the flavour of the absinthe rinse. An easy way to create an enjoyable drink and one worth trying.

Millionaire’s Manhattan
Very disappointing – the worst of the bunch. A clash of different flavours, which then disappear, resulting in a drink that is altogether rather dull. Neither the Champagne nor the cocktail does well here. Avoid.

Millionaire’s Bramble
Another triumph for the Bramble: the Champagne lengthens the drink without taking away the flavour of the ingredients; it all was nicely balanced. I thought this was a version of the original to be kept for special occasions, which is exactly what I think a Millionaire’s cocktail should be. If you usually find the Bramble too sweet, this may be a nice variation.
I also recommend straining out the crushed ice (or adding a straw), in order to make it easier to drink.

Millionaire’s Sidecar
Really very good – refreshing, with a little bite. The bubbles of the Champagne go well with the slightly sherberty flavour of the Sidecar. Once again, this could be a cocktail in its own right and not just a novelty. It is worth noting that, once the tasting was over, this was the first of the cocktails to be finished.

Millionaire’s Gimlet
The extra fizz is welcome; I do occasionally add a splash of soda to my Gimlets to give it a little extra zip. The drink is fresh and rather sippable. Despite its strong-flavoured ingredients, the Gimlet does still let some of the Champagne flavours through. Probably our third favourite.

Millionaire’s Panama (Brandy Alexander)
The reaction of the cream and Champagne made the top of this look a bit like meringue – how novel! Beyond that, it’s not that great. Although not unpleasant, it’s half-way to being a Ramos Gin Fizz, but doesn’t quite make it.

Conclusion
After trying a variety of Millionaire’s cocktails, it certainly seems that some work better than others and that, typically, the simple ones work the best. Our top recommendations for trying on December 31st would be the Sidecar, Gimlet & Sazerac. Either way, have an enjoyable New Year’s Eve.

Mrs B.’s Drinks

Mrs. B’s Drinks

or

Cocktails for Ladies

I have often found myself caught off-guard when asked, “What would you like to drink?”. With a lack of insight, I usually then found myself sipping a glass of orange juice, but longing for something more adventurous.

The world of cocktails, even just vintage ones, is vast and often expensive and so, after a couple of conversations with ladies in a similar situation to myself, I decided to raid the cellar and the bookshelf and find cocktails that could I recommend to female friends. I wanted to arm all of us with a list of choices – relatively straight-forward, easy-to-find choices – for those moments of ignorance and indecision that I had found myself dreading. I hope that this brief introduction provides some insight into a much bigger and vibrant world of cocktails.

From left to right: White Lady, Brandy Alexander, Rusty Nail, Harvey Wallbanger, Simple Rum Cocktail, Sidecar, Sweet Martini

The White Lady (8/10)

This gin-based cocktail was wonderfully smooth and, with its bitter, lemon flavour and creamy froth on top, was highly reminiscent of a lemon meringue pie, only without the excessive sweetness. I could easily see myself sipping and savouring one of these at any point in an evening, although I imagine those with a more refined palate than myself may enjoy specifying their choice of gin to make it even better.

Harvey Wallbanger (7/10)

Vodka, orange juice and Galliano come together to make this a sweet and fruity long drink that probably won’t hang around for too long if you have a sweet tooth and like the strong vanilla flavour. If find sugary cocktails hard to swallow, using Galliano L’Autentico, based on an older formulation, may be just the ticket: the sweet vanilla is then replaced with a subtle aniseed kick. Both variations are delicious with a slice of orange and, for a real treat, freshly squeezed juice.

I found the Harvey Wallbanger much easier to drink than The White Lady and wonderfully thirst-quenching, but thought it likely to disappear all too quickly to really savour.

Mrs B. samples a Harvey Wallbanger

Brandy Alexander (9.5/10)

I have to admit to being less than enthusiastic about cocktails containing cream, and so I was quietly dreading the Brandy Alexander (which I know to be a favourite of Mr. B), but this one was a real surprise. A dusting of nutmeg and chocolate flake draws you into a combination of brandy, crème de cacao, and (in this case, double) cream that is silky and rich, with the warmth in the brandy slowly seeping through after the ice-cream-like beginning. This is a drink that could very easily replace a dessert, in my eyes (and I like my desserts!).

Simple Rum Cocktail (6/10)

With a glass full of crushed ice, refreshing lime and a dash of cola, this cocktail brings back memories of many a summer evening. It is a very enjoyable way of drinking rum, both if you are a fan of the spirit or if you have just been introduced. The other ingredients complement the rum, making it more palatable for a fresh face, but the individual character of the rum still comes through; if you don’t use a rum that you like the taste of on its own, this probably won’t be your favourite.

Sweet Martini (ladies only, according to the Esquire’s Handbook for Hosts) (8/10)

Mixed using Old Tom Gin, which is sweeter than its modern counterparts, this martini was remarkably full of flavour, which was highly unexpected, given its cool, clear exterior. It certainly packs a punch, but the flavour goes far beyond just alcohol; I found myself reminiscing on olives and pizza, making me think that it might serve quite well as an aperitif for an Italian meal. Given its bold flavours, this probably won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it’s an unusual one to try, regardless of your feelings towards the dry martini.

Rusty Nail (8/10)

As a fan of whisky, I was looking forward to this one and wasn’t disappointed: with its combination of Drambuie, a honey and herb liqueur, and blended Scotch, it is a sweeter way to drink whisky without drowning it within a long drink. This would be a delightful drink to slowly sip by the fire at the end of a long day, feeling both the flames and the alcohol gradually warm you up.

Sidecar (9/10)

Finally, we have the Sidecar: a deliciously smooth and fruity cocktail and another one that surprised me, as I’m not generally a fan of brandy. The Sidecar, however, is a short, revitalising drink (that is, nonetheless, relatively easy to manage) with a sharp finish that reminded me distinctly of sherbet. The flavours come together nicely and I believe I could quite happily order one of these at any point during an evening. This is my top pick for a ladies’ cocktail.

In conclusion, by scores alone, the Brandy Alexander was my clear favourite, but, unlike a good cup of tea, I feel that I would need to be in a specific mood to enjoy one as much as I did in this tasting. Therefore, the top spot in my list of cocktails for ladies has to be the Sidecar, followed by the Rusty Nail and The White Lady, with the Brandy Alexander reserved for those times when I’m after a sweet treat, but can’t manage dessert!

There are, of course, many, many other cocktails to try and so I would greatly encourage everyone to try something new; why not ask a barman for a recommendation, stating your favourite spirit as a base? Create your own, tailored list so that you never again find yourself, as I did, unarmed with the perfect drink for an evening.