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Ah, Cognac 

Cocktails Anyone?
by Sheila Swerling-Puritt

Martell, one of the "big four" Cognac producers, is finally releasing its ultra-premium L'Or de Martell Cognac in Canada. People say that it is better to give than to receive, but when it comes to L'Or – Santa, are you listening? – receiving is at least as good.

Whichever way you look at it, this golden nectar makes an incredible gift. At $2,500 per bottle, you need gold in your pockets to get the gold in your glass, but aficionados will find L'Or worth the price. It's an exceptional Cognac blended entirely from eaux-de-vie from Martell's Paradis cellar, where ancient spirits slumber quietly. It's a golden copper dram with an intense nose featuring black currant nuances. It's rich and full on the palate with hazelnut notes and a rich, powerful finish.

Speaking of gift giving, L'Or's packaging matters – it's a work of art in itself, and makes a beautiful expression of your thoughtfulness.

My personal preference for L'Or is to swirl it in a snifter, neat. The aromas, which actually fill the room, last forever. (Wonder if they have thought about using it in a perfume)? Of course, that means it will last much longer than those cognacs one tends to sip.

Meanwhile, Martell Cordon Bleu has been my house cognac for years and I don't see my taste changing any time soon. That said, wouldn't be a bit surprised if Martell XO appeared on my after-dinner digestive list. In its new formulation this cognac is now light and lovely. With a predominance of Borderies and a good dollop of Grande Champagne eau-de-vie, this XO is complex; with everything from dried fruit through beeswax and Russian leather, it's round, silky and elegant, graced with sweet spice and floral notes.

One of the questions I hear the most when I'm wearing my drinks writer hat is "What goes with chocolate?" Wine folk will recommend a red vin doux naturel from Roussillon, a vintage port, or a tannic fruity red from anywhere. I have the secret perfect match for chocolate: Cognac. Yup, the grape-based wood-aged brown spirit from south-western France, straight up or in a mixed drink.

Think about it. Both delicacies have toasty aromas and smell of sweet vanilla. Both hit your palate with rich fruity flavours and a satisfying bitter snap. Both leave you with lingering aromas, textures and flavours that last long after the sniff, slurp and swallow. If you look at the combination that way, it's clearly a marriage made in table heaven! It's also the perfect holiday gift for the gourmand you love who loves a delightful surprise.

As a chocoholic, I recently tasted three different flavours of chocolate from the fabulous "La Maison du Chocolat" of Paris and New York (with an equally fabulous website, www.lamaisonduchocolat.com) along side a range of Cognacs. Yoko, a tea-infused chocolate with bitter cocoa and spring tea characters, went well with my VSOP, whose fruit echoed the tea aromas. Cannelle, a subtly honeyed cinnamon chocolate, was perfect with my house Cognac, Martell Cordon Bleu, the combo filling the mouth and nose with sweet spiciness. Maiko, their ginger-infused chocolate, was rich and made for a peaceful coexistence and gentle spice with XO.

The Courvoisier Cognacs, with their assertive woodiness in the same range, went best with plain bitter dark chocolate, while their VSOP married well with milk chocolate.

Here are a few mixed Cognac-based concoctions to try with your next box of chocolates:

French Connection

  • 2 oz. cognac VS or VSOP
  • 1 oz. Grand Marnier liqueur

Place ingredients into an ice-filled rocks glass. Stir.

 
Corpse Reviver

  • 1 oz. cognac VS or VSOP
  • 1 oz. Campari
  • 1 oz. triple sec
  • ½ oz. fresh lemon juice

Pour ingredients into a shaker with ice. Shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass.

 
Is Paris Burning

  • 2 oz. cognac VS or VSOP
  • 1 oz. Chambord raspberry liqueur

Pour ingredients into a shaker with ice. Shake well. Strain into a Well chilled cocktail glass.

 

For more information, you can contact Sheila at spuritt@hotmail.com.

 

 

 

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