How To Drink Cognac

When most people think of cognac, they think of Hennessy. This drink is so popular that 6.4 million cases were imported to the United States in 2017.

However, the world of cognac has so much to offer besides this one brand. In recent years, many brands have emerged on the scene with their own renditions of the drink.

So what is cognac? This drink is defined as a type of brandy made from distilled and barrel-aged wine. For brandy to be labeled as cognac, it must be produced under specific guidelines and with grapes from the Cognac region in southwestern France.

Cognac is also commonly referred to as a wine, which is misleading. Yes, it is made from wine, but you’d be fooled to think that cognac is anything similar to a real wine like rosé or white wine.

This drink is also imitated frequently with other brandies not made from Cognac grapes, making it confusing for people to find genuine cognac.

There are few drinks as tasty and distinctly flavored as cognac. Its taste is truly one of a kind. It also pairs well with foods and makes for a great cocktail.

With a little bit of guidance, cognac can be a beautifully versatile drink. Today, we’re going to be going over some of its main uses. Without further ado, here is Saucey’s guide on how to properly drink cognac.

Young vs. old Cognacs

In America, there are over 150 bottles of cognac to choose from. At your local liquor store, you should be able to find everything from some early 20th-century vintage cognacs to newer, more trendy varieties.

Younger cognacs are typically better for cocktails and beginners who aren’t yet familiar with the flavor of the brandy.

Some great younger options are Courvoisier VS or Frapin VS. In these spirits, you’ll find notes of citrus, as well as nutty and floral notes. They are a bit sweeter than other cognacs, which is typical of younger variations.

One trend that people love is mixing a younger cognac with some ginger ale and ice. When it’s hot out, this cocktail really hits the spot.

One older cognac that we recommend is the D’ussé – VSOP Cognac, which is naturally aged to a wonderfully bold mixture of wood and cinnamon notes. It also contains a touch of spice, almond, and dried fruit.

For cognacs that display a high level of complexity, cocktails should be avoided. These types of cognacs can be very expensive, and with how much time and preparation goes into creating them, their original flavors should be appreciated.

The proper way to serve Cognac

The two main ways that cognac is served are on the rocks or straight. Basically, these terms just mean with ice or without.

Some people might judge you for sipping a glass of cognac served on the rocks because some cognac enthusiasts are adamant about sipping their drink straight. But you should enjoy your cognac however you prefer. The ice may water down the spirit a bit, but if you sip it promptly, you shouldn’t have too much of an issue.

Certain styles of the drink work better for certain scenarios as well. For example, a cognac on ice is perfect for dinner. But if you’re snacking on a dessert, it might be best to just drink it straight.

In terms of glassware, there is no specific vessel that cognac is served in. However, you do want to avoid balloon glasses. They’re just too big. Balloon glasses will trap in the aromas of your cognac, which you don’t want.

A tulip or white wine glass will work well for your cognac. Since cognac is made from wine, you want to be able to swirl it and sniff it.

Creative, fun cocktails

Despite the critics of cognac cocktails, this brandy actually works very well with mixed drinks. Depending on what mixers, fruits, and herbs you use, the ingredients in your cocktail can greatly highlight the cognac’s flavors.

One of the most classic cognac cocktails you can make is the Sidecar. This drink has existed since the early 1900s and is closely related to the beloved Margarita. This is one of the more balanced cocktails on our list, including both sweet and tart notes. It contains multiple layers of warmness, crispness, and dryness. To make this cocktail, all you need is cognac, Cointreau, and lemon juice.

Another delicious cognac-based cocktail is the French Connection. This might be the easiest cocktail to make on our list. All you need is cognac and amaretto. Just serve it over ice, and you’re good to go. This drink is known for its heavy taste of almonds. For how simple this cocktail is, it provides some great depth.

We mentioned the Sidecar already, but they’re actually is a Cognac Margarita. Typically made with Hennessy, you can pair your cognac with aged tequila, lime, and orange liqueur to create a mock version of the Margarita.

For fans of spirit-forward cocktails such as the Old Fashioned, you can swap out whiskey and a sugar cube for cognac and black licorice. The licorice gives the drink a refreshing mintiness that complements the boldness of the cognac seamlessly. The Sazerac is one of the oldest cocktails known to man and is the official drink of New Orleans.

Decadent food pairings

Wine is known as a drink that pairs well with food. But so is cognac.

Cognac is highly aromatic and very flavorful. It offers a myriad of different tastes and smells to match with food.

Matured cognacs have richer, fruitier, and nuttier palates than their younger counterparts. Ideally, they should be paired with dishes that include game meats, steak, and chicken. They also work beautifully with chocolatey desserts like cake and ice cream.

Younger cognacs, which are less dense, work well with happy hour dishes like hard cheeses, oysters, and caviar. They also can be paired with crackers and cookies.

Ultimately, there are no steadfast rules to what foods you can pair with cognac. Cognac is a blend, which allows for a lot of flexibility in food pairing.

How Cognac is made

There are six grape-growing regions within the Charente and Charente-Maritime areas of Cognac, France. The main kinds of grape used in cognac are Ugni Blanc (same as Italy’s Trebbiano grape), Folle Blanche, and Colombard.

Other grapes can be used, but they are much less common. These varieties include Jurançon Blanc, Sémillon and Folignan.

After the grapes are harvested, they’re fermented for five to seven days. The resulting product ends up between 8.5% and 9.5% ABV.

Then, the blend is distilled two times in copper pot stills. This process produces colorless alcohol called eau-de-vie (French for “water of life”). Next, the spirit is aged in either Limousin or Tronçais oak barrels for a minimum of two years.

This single-barrel cognac is blended with other cognacs of different ages and qualities when it’s all done. The final product is a mixture of several different brandies. When you see an age statement on the packaging of a cognac bottle, it refers to the youngest eau-de-vie in the recipe.

Cognacs are categorized by age. They can be VS, or very special, which are aged for at least two years. They can be VSOP, or very superior old pale, aged for at least four years. Or they can be XO, or extra-old, which are aged for at least ten years.

Like the age statement on the bottles, these categories refer to the youngest cognac used in the mixture. The oldest cognac is not even considered in the categorization of the drink.

Beyond these labels, there are also cognacs labeled as XO or XXO, reserved for bottles aged at least 14 years. As you can expect, XO and XXO cognacs are much rarer to find than the standard three categories of cognac.


As you can see, the cognac market offers so much more than just Hennessy. This is a classic, traditional drink that has been enjoyed for centuries. And it isn’t going anywhere soon.

Sometimes, cognac is called an “old man’s drink.” This is so far from the truth. If you’re looking for complexity in liquor without the high price tag, cognac is out there for you.

Too often, inexperienced drinkers are intimidated by cognac. Its strong taste and smell, sense of tradition and history, and typical fanciful packaging are enough to ward away beginners. Some people enjoy this drink with hearty meals like steak and poultry. Others enjoy it as a dessert drink, snacking on cookies and macaroons while sipping.

Whether you’re kicking back by yourself on a warm summer day or celebrating with friends at the club, cognac is an acceptable drink choice. Few spirits provide the strength and density of flavors that cognac offers. You really can’t go wrong with a tall glass of Hennessy. It’s no surprise that the brand sold 6.4 million cases of their iconic drink in 2017.

For a wide selection of quality cognacs, visit Saucey, the number one alcohol delivery service in America. We carry a variety of brandies, as well as spirits, beers, and wines. There is no other alcohol delivery service as reliable as us when it comes to affordability and service.


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