A toast to Courvoisier
Apr 20, 2018
If it was good enough for Napoleon then it is most certainly good enough for us!
First off, a quick masterclass so you can impress your friends about being in the know with this classic spirit! Cognac (pronounced konyak) is a type of brandy hailing from the west of France and aged in oak barrels. Each bottle is a blend of different aged cognacs. It’s this mixing process that gives the spirit its distinctive flavour and aroma.
So far, so good. Now for the basic grading system. VS stands for Very Special (or sometimes 3 stars). This is your standard grade and aged for a minimum of 2 years. Next up is VSOP, short for Very Special Old Pale, which is left to develop for at least 4 years. Finally you have XO or Extra Old. The aging process is changing in April 2018 from 6 to a whopping 10 years for this grade. A cognac blend is named after the oldest cognac type used in the mix and most have been aged longer, making this a versatile base for our most loved cocktails. Done. Hats off to you if you followed all of that – now go and pour yourself a glass!
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Back to Courvoisier. The history began in 1809 with a story that could mirror today’s trend for artisanal brewing. Two friends, Emmanuel Courvoisier and Louis Gallois (a mayor, no less), set up a company in Paris trading the best wines and spirits around. Their passion for cognac continued to grow, and soon they decided the best way forward was to become producers themselves to be sure of having a premium drink, so they set up shop in Jarnac, in the Cognac region. The rest, as they say, is history. Napoleon was a fan, so much so that he made this the official drink of his Imperial Court – we can’t argue with that kind of recommendation. And finally, in 1889 when Paris celebrated the opening of the Eiffel Tower, Courvoisier was chosen as the spirit of choice for the festivities. This really put them on the map as the spirit du jour in Europe.
Fast forward more than a century to 2016, when the first Toast of Paris competition was held, this really showcased the incredible cocktails that can be made using Courvoisier. The challenge in 2018 is for bartenders to create two distinct drinks that celebrate not only the unique flavour of Courvoisier but also its unique heritage.
The first theme is “Café Courvoisier” in homage to that French past-time of lounging on a terrace with an espresso, watching the world go by. For this the competitors need to marry coffee flavours with VSOP cognac, which has rich notes of nuts and caramel. A match made in heaven, surely.
Theme two is “All-time classic”. Like Paris, Courvoisier is timelessly chic, so mixologists must create a modern twist on a classic cocktail. The possibilities are endless!
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The grand finale of the competition will be held in Paris on 24th April where bartenders will go head-to-head to win over the judges with their most innovative serves. The 2016 winner Aleksandrs Sadovskis evoked the Belle Époque of Paris with an elegant cocktail that combined Champagne, Courvoisier VSOP and hints of smoky Lapsang Souchong that brought the tastes of the golden age and the industrial revolution to life.
For the first time, contestants will be judged on creativity, balance, taste, AND “instagram-worthiness”. You heard that right. Social media is the millennial currency of choice and Courvoisier knows that pictures are worth a thousand words. Get ready for a feast for the eyes and the mouth!
The winner will walk away with their very own bespoke Courvoisier blend that comes from the Paradis cellar (literally paradise, where the most precious blends are stored and the holy grail for a cognac aficionado) complete with a crystal decanter. The prize money isn’t bad either, to encourage our winner to keep mixing up more delicious cocktails for years to come!
Still not sold on the idea of cognac? Then just to really convince you, here’s a little recipe inspiration directly from Courvoisier. Try this fresh and modern take on the Parisian-born Sidecar. Mix Courvoisier VSOP with Italicus and add a splash of Aperol. Top with lemon and pink grapefruit juice, and a touch of sugar syrup. Shake and strain into a chilled glass. Complete with an orange twist and lavender garnish. Simple, but oh so good.
We may not be able to go back in time but we can certainly relive the Belle Époque, all with a glass of Courvoisier in hand. Cheers!
Photo by MARHARYTA MARKO on iStock