If ever a spirit is typecast, it’s Cognac. Sure, bourbon is commonly considered as a cool-weather drink, but you can hardly call a summer “summer” without a few mint juleps or whiskey sours to slake your thirst. Margaritas are a beach bar staple, but they’re also a staple pretty much everywhere else, too. All year round. Thoughts of Cognac, however, remain deeply lodged in that part of the brain responsible for dreaming about skiing, fireplaces, epic novels, and Merino wool. And that’s a shame.
“Too many times, people think of Cognac as a dark winter spirit when in reality, it adds a lot of body and structure and refreshment to anything with citrus because, after all, it comes from a fruit,” says Ezra Star, general manager at Drink who also works as a Cognac educator for the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac, a French trade association. “It’s an underrated spirit that really plays well with anything. It expands whatever you’re making by giving a drink more flavors, but doesn’t hold you down by graininess that whiskey does.
When pressed for her favorite cocktail that exemplifies how Cognac plays well with others, she doesn’t hesitate to recommend the Champs Elysees, a recipe originally found in the seminal 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book. This quintessentially French drink employs VSOP Cognac and herbaceous Yellow Chartreuse, a distinctive liqueur that monks have been making in the French Alps for centuries. (The original recipe calls for intense green Chartreuse, but Star prefers yellow for its brightness.) But when the brandy, rich and ripe with age, mingles with the dynamic, vigorous Chartreuse, a refreshingly bright, fruity sip results and dislodges cognac from the wintery stockroom of your mind, and placing it firmly on the sunny streets of Paris, flower peddlers on each corner.
Makes 1 drink
1¼ ounce VSOP Cognac
1 ounce lemon juice
½ ounce Yellow Chartreuse
¼ ounce simple syrup (Combine 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and stir until sugar dissolves. Let cool.)
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1. Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker over fresh ice. Shake vigorously about 10 seconds.
2. Strain into a martini glass or cupette.