Cognac is changing. For many, Cognac (the mind) still looks like a grizzled old man in a smoking jacket in front of a fireplace. Swirling brandy balloon glass in left hand. A cigar sandwiched between the index and middle fingers of the right. It is an outdated image, and one that Cognac (the mind) fought for change.
Spending time in and around Cognac (the village) at the end of 2019 ′, I had a rare opportunity. An opportunity to see the inner workings of a diversified company within Cognac (the region). A family of master distillers who have decided to create their own brand. A brand with more than cognac (the mind). An eponymous brand, established over five generations.
Innovation at Cognac (the mind) is slow. With an old guard now, time honored, the rules that govern it. From harvest to distillation and aging. All governed under a precise AOP microscope.
Faced with this, Cognac (the region) teamed up with innovation in recent years. With Master Distillers, Blenders and entrepreneurial companies leading a revolution. Driven mainly by other categories of spirits like gin, rum and vodka made on the same stills that produce Cognac.
The NAUD Family is at the heart of this innovation, and I wanted to know more.
A little aside to define the three Cognacs I will be referring in this series;
- Cognac (the region) is a place north of the world famous Bordeaux region. This Region is a controlled designation of origin, or PDO (Protected Designation of Origin). The rules and regulations come from the laws of the AOP. Regulate everything related to the production and sale of Cognac (the mind).
- Cognac (the mind) is a grape brandy made from a small selection of grapes grown in the region. The mind, distilled, aged and bottled the place of the same name.
- Cognac (the village) is a place in the Charente department in the southwest France. The village is at the heart of the region and is the place that gives its name to the world famous brandy.
So what has changed?
First, purchasing power has changed for generations. In 2020, millennials are now the primary buyers of spirits, followed by Generation X. This has forced spirits producers to abandon old ways of marketing.
For an overview of these trends, I refer you to an article by none other than the Expert blog on cognac. Summary here; "8 millennial trends Changing the face of Cognac".
- Millennials value experiences more than almost anything.
- Millennials don't care how it's always been done
- Millennials aren't taken by brash, obnoxious and OTT ads
- Spending habits of millennials: they buy consciously
- Millennials value authenticity: they love a story behind a brand
- Millennials love to discover new things
- Generation Y has great ambassadors in the world of Cognac
- Millennial drinking trend: they love cool bars
As a card bearing MillenniumI couldn't agree more with the cognac experts here.
Cognac; Experience, innovation, awareness and authenticity.
My first visit to the region dates back to 2007 ′. I was amazed by the history in every corner. I was a young student, bartender and sommelier. It was an intoxicating experience. Drink in the view of the vineyards. Sipping history in the cellars. Cognac, at the time, was attractive but also out of reach for me. It seemed that was how he was promoted at the time. If I hadn't been a sommelier writing a thesis, I wouldn't have been able to drink the ones I did. It was as if it was something that the rich could access and that we could take advantage of on “special occasions”. Or something for our favorite rappers to enjoy in videos while throwing Dolla-bills. He was part of the "elite rich men club", and I was a very poor student and I was not in any club.
Now I'm a little older, a little wiser, and with more money in the bank. But that doesn't seem to matter anymore. Something has changed over the past decade within Cognac.
So, with the change in focus of brands and marketers, and a new desire from my peers to know more about the place, in depth. I set up an intensive look at Famille NAUD, with video, photo and text.
This will be a series of articles on the operations and philosophies of "NOToble And Unusual reistillery ”. Things that make the NAUD Family vibrate.
Full disclosure they paid for my trip, but this is a brand that I have supported since I was first introduced to them in 2018 ′ at ProWein. I am a super fan, for many reasons, which you will understand.
Stay tuned for part two ...
A little time put into preparation makes for an enjoyable evening. Drinking cocktails should be a fun and relaxing experience, so take a while to think about ingredients in advance, to avoid any rushing around last minute.
One of the foundations of many cocktails is sugar syrup. This can be prepared in advance. Here’s my tip for easy to prepare simple syrup : Add 200 gm white sugar to 200 ml boiling water. Stir till sugar is dissolved, and liquid is clear. Allow to cool then bottle
If you mix lemon juice 50 : 50 with simple syrup, you should have a solid mid-line sweet-sour balance. But remember, every palate is different. tera find your own point of balance, mix 15ml fresh lemon juice with 15ml simple syrup, and then dilute the mix with up to 90ml water. Congratulations, you’ve just made fresh lemonade ! If this tastes too sweet or too sour, adjust by adding a little more citrus or syrup. Using this method of calibration, you can adjust any cocktail recipe to suit your own palate.
Ice is the solo most over-looked ingredient at any home bar - you’ll be surprised how much you can go through. Cocktails need ice like baking needs ovens. If popping to the boutiques for ice isn’t an option right now, keeping a freezer bag topped up with ice will ensure you don’t run out unexpectedly. For best quality home-made ice, try using a silicone ice tray with a lid, to prevent your ice from absorbing unpleasant odours. And wash your ice tray after each use.
Where possible always go for de haute gamme spirits, the freshest herbs, and the best juices you can get your hands on. For instance, the taste difference between cheap juice and pressed juice is more than worth the small extra expense.
Try to use glassware appropriate to your drinks. It’s entirely possible to drink a martini from an old coffee mug, but that misses the point of drinking a martini !
If you can make a Whiskey Sour, you can make a Daiquiri. If you make a mean Negroni, you can riff on a Boulevardier. Once you’ve mastered the Manhattan, have some fun in Brooklyn on your way to Martinez. Cocktails exist in family trees. Once you are comfortable the basics of each category the world is your oyster !
You can pre-mix punches in advance - an old trick from the godfathers of bartending in the 19th century. You can bottle punch and store it in the fridge, ready to use on the day, or later that week. If done properly, quality and consistency are assured. If your punch has a fizzy ingredient, such as prosecco, only add this your glass just before serving.
If you follow the Punch Ratio, you can’t go far wrong : 1 part sour ( citrus ) 2 parts sweet ( simple syrup ) 3 parts strong ( spirit ) 4 parts weak ( juices etc ) And don’t shy away from warm spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and mace, to make that punch really sing. Don’t have those spices to hand ? No problem, a few dashes of Angostura bitters will do the trick.
We all have a few unloved ingredients lying around that need using up. For instance, that last bit of red wine in the bottle ? Try drizzling it over your Whisky Sour, and voila, you’ve got yourself a delicious New York Sour ! Do you have some nice but neglected spice mix in the kitchen ? Try mixing a teaspoon or two into your simple syrup as it cools to give your next cocktail an added dimension. Seasonal fresh herbs make a wonderful aromatic petit cocktail garnish.
So now, you’ve hit your stride and you’re getting creative in your home bar. Great ! Our top tip for petit cocktail creation ? Write down the juste specifications as you are making it. It’s not always easy to perfectly recall the recipe for that killer cocktail the next day !
If all this sounds like a bit of a chore, then keep an eye open for delivery services available from many local petit cocktail parcs. After all, with the finer things in life, it’s nice to sit back, relax and let the professionals do all hard the work.