How The New Generation Of Drinkers Is Embracing Cognac
The reputation of cognac has come a long way from being an ‘old man’s drink’ to becoming one of the most popular brown spirits in the global market. And no one's more excited about this shift in the drinks scene than Baptiste Loiseau, the cellar master of the House of Rémy Martin, who took over the coveted position from Pierrette Trichet in 2014.
“Through education, people now understand the versatility of the brown spirit,” he tells T.Dining, adding that discerning drinkers are becoming more interested in its origin, terroir, aroma and how it’s made. And being one of the most storied French brandies to date, there’s so much to learn and explore.
That’s why in between his job as cellar master—which involves tasting the eaux-de-vie and talking to the winegrowers from the region—he takes the time to travel the world to educate drinkers about the nuances of the brown spirit and the best ways to enjoy it.
“It’s always a matter of preference,” he posits, confirming that in France they are breaking the rules and enjoying it in many different ways. Aside from serving it “la fine à l’eau”—a long tradition of mixing the spirit with drops of water to fully reveal its aromas—it can also be had with tonic water or ginger ale, a wedge of lime and ice.
For newbies, though, he recommends appreciating the drink’s complexities first based on the quality of the product. And the longer the ageing process, the more opulence you have in the blend. “Our XO range, for instance, you can have it neat in the beginning to discover its true potential before trying it on rocks to highlight the fruitiness and smoothness on the palate.”
MIX AND MATCH
Another popular way to enjoy cognac is by mixing it with cocktails, a trend that has been gaining steam in recent years. But Loiseau was quick to point out that it has been a long tradition in making these drinks, with cognac being the base of many high-end tipples like Sidecar and Cognac Old Fashioned for over a century.
“It’s a trend that’s coming back in the past five to 10 years, as more bartenders and mixologists are keen to rediscover it.” But of course, Rémy Martin isn’t making cognac for cocktails, rather the team follows the strict guidelines of making it and respecting the range that has been created by the previous cellar masters. These include the VSOP with fresh and vanilla notes, XO that’s more intense and opulent, and the US exclusive 1738 with more oaky nuances.
“My mission as cellar master is to recreate this tradition,” he lets on, saying that as long as the bartenders and mixologists understand and respect what they’re making, they’re free to play with it and get creative.
(Related: How To Get A Deeper Sense Of The Royal Salute 21 Year Old Whisky)
Which is why three years ago, the House of Rémy Martin launched the bartending academy, where 12 to 15 talented bartenders from around the world are invited to the Cognac region to learn more about the spirit.
During their visit, they get to explore the vineyards, talk to the winegrowers and cask makers, and spend time with Loiseau to taste the eaux-de-vie straight from the casks. The immersive experience culminates with a friendly cocktail making competition—a chance for them to showcase whatever they’ve learned through innovative tipples.
“When they go back to their countries, they can become new ambassadors of the house,” admits Loiseau, and that's one of the best ways to spread the good word about cognac.
(Related: The Gin-trification Of Singapore—How The Classic White Spirit Became Our Favourite Drink)
- Images Rémy Martin