Keri Harris-Shaw: Hi! I am Keri, Communication Manager at Total Wine & More. I would like to introduce you to one of the great brown spirits of the world cognac. Cognac are brandies made using white grape types from specific areas as determine by French laws. These grapes become white wine, which are distilled into what's called Eau de vie or water of life.
Cognac is double distilled using a slow painstaking process which results in a flavorful and aromatic spirit. Then the clear Eau de vie is aged in French oak casks for many years. During which time it takes on its famous amber color and incredible aroma. The youngest Eau de vie in a cognac must have spent a minimum of two years in barrel to be called VS or Very Special. VSOP or Very Special Old Pale has to spend at least four years resting in barrel. XO or Extra Old has to slowly slumber in barrel for at least 6 years if made prior to 2016 and 10 years if made after.
VS cognacs are fantastic as a base for many classic cocktails. One of our favorites originated from prohibition times, it's called the sidecar. A sidecar is a delightful sweet tart combination on only three ingredients. Now there is some disagreement among mixologists about the proportions of the sidecar, we have even seen equal parts of all three ingredients. There is a room for experimentation, but to get you started.
First add to a cocktail shaker 3/4 of an ounce triple-set, 3/4 of an ounce fresh lemon juice and 1 1/2 ounce cognac. Shake the three ingredients with the cracked ice and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass that has its rimmed rubbed with lemon juice and dipped in sugar. Take it easy on these though, they are dangerously delicious. Cheers!