By Stef Schwalb
“A good cognac is like a woman. Do not assault it. Coddle and warm it in your hands before you sip it.” So said Sir Winston Churchill, an avid fan of this sumptuous spirit. A spirit that has almost literally arisen from the dead in the case of Pierre Ferrand Cognac 1840 Original Formula®. Take heart my friends, for this is no zombie potion, but a genius revival of a fresh, floral flavor that is an awesome addition to many classic cocktails we all know and love. And here’s how it came about…
“After working a few years along with the best bartenders in America, and the most acute researchers on the subject of cocktail history, we, ignorant cognac makers, discovered that it was a major ingredient for cocktails back in the 19th century,” reveals Guillaume Lamy, vice president – Americas, Cognac Ferrand. “We realized that over one third of all cocktails listed in the Jerry Thomas recipe book (the bible for many bartenders today) were made with cognac as a base or an ingredient. So we decided to do a bit more research about what kind of cognac bartenders were using back then.”
This research led to some serious field work that included a lot of tasting and evaluation – a job I am sure many of us wouldn’t mind being asked to do, but one that nonetheless, is no easy task to undertake. “After tasting through 15 bottles from the 19th century, our cellar master Alexandre Gabriel and his good friend David Wondrich (a renowned cocktail historian and author) both agreed that one particular bottle would fit the bill on the taste components which would have made it the typical cognac used in a Mint Julep or a Brandy Crusta,” Guillaume adds. “This cognac is a Pinet Castillon, distilled in 1840. Pinet Castillon is a house that does not exist anymore. However, we were able to reproduce the exact same style and taste profile.”
The key characteristics of this cognac? “Cognacs from the 19th century had a higher proof, a different taste (because they were blended differently according to techniques that nobody uses today), and were much younger with a fresher base. However, all distillation was on heavy lees, giving them a high grape taste component. The idea of 1840 was to resuscitate such style of cognac and make it available to all bartenders, so that they could recreate all of the classics out of 19th-century cocktail books.”
The result has been resoundingly positive. Awarded Best New Product at Tales of the Cocktail© Spirited Awards 2012, Pierre Ferrand Cognac 1840 Original Formula® is quickly becoming an important part of the bartender’s arsenal. Below are two recipes you can try to recreate yourself in the comfort of your home:
Original Cognac Cocktail (Adapted by David Wondrich from Jerry Thomas, Bar-Tenders’ Guide, 1862; Photo by Daniel Kreiger)
In a mixing glass, stir ½ teaspoon/3 ml of superfine sugar with 1 teaspoon/5 ml water until sugar has dissolved. Add:
2 oz./60 ml Pierre Ferrand Cognac 1840 Original Formula®
1 teaspoon/5 ml orange liqueur, such as Mathilde Orange X.O. Liqueur
2-3 dashes aromatic bitters, such as Fee’s Whiskey Barrel Bitters, The Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters, or Angostura Bitters
Fill glass with cracked ice, stir well, and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Twist lemon peel over the top. For an Improved Cognac Cocktail, substitute a maraschino liqueur for the orange liqueur and add a dash (3 or 4 drops) of absinthe.
Original Cognac Julep (Adapted by David Wondrich, Imbibe, 2007; Photo by Daniel Kreiger)
In a highball glass, stir 2 teaspoons/10 ml superfine sugar with ½ oz./15 ml water until dissolved.
Add 5 or 6 mint leaves (from the bottom of the sprig) and press very lightly with a muddler.
Add 1½ oz./45 ml Pierre Ferrand Cognac 1840 Original Formula® and fill with crushed or finely cracked ice.
Swirl with a barspoon until the outside of the glass frosts. Add more crushed ice and another 1 oz./30 ml Pierre Ferrand Cognac 1840 Original Formula®. Stir again to frost the glass.
Garnish with at least 1 sprig of mint, and preferably 3, and add a straw.
Optional (but highly recommended): Before inserting the mint and straw float ½ oz./15 ml Plantation Vintage 2000 Jamaican Rum on top by gently pouring it from a jigger over the back of a barspoon.
Pierre Ferrand Cognac 1840 Original Formula® is available at bars, restaurants, and retailers nationwide. The suggested retail price per bottle is $45.00. For more info, check out http://www.pierreferrandcognac.com