Cognac may seem like a new-fashioned way to mix up an Old Fashioned, but in fact it’s been the foundation of countless cocktails—most famously the Sidecar—since the 19th century. But along the way, French brandy was replaced in recipes by American bourbon (due in part to the phylloxera epidemic in the late 1800s). And Cognac became more of a solo act.
For those who still want a taste of the past, however, there is a renaissance of Cognac-based cocktails, and I, for one, rarely turn one down.
The thing about most Cognac cocktails is that they deliver a distinctive depth of flavor without being too overpowering. Think of it as having the robustness a stiff drink often requires—but without any of the burn or astringency. So it’s really a win-win all around.
Here, some of my the country’s best spirits professionals share their favorite Cognac concoctions—from a spiked variation on an oat milk latte to a refreshing pear-forward drink and beyond.
Easy Cocktail Recipes: Cognac Concoctions Perfect for Winter
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“One of my bar regulars—one that I would now call a friend—had asked me to bartend for his 50th birthday party in Copenhagen some years ago. It’s rare that I get to visit a place and have locals show me all the best restaurants and bars. It was an unforgettable trip filled with great food, drink, and people. I already had an affinity for aquavit, so I was pleased to taste other brands and styles that aren’t available in the U.S. I think I created at least three new aquavit cocktails after that trip. I was obsessed. And when I tasted the Åhus Aquavit recently, I knew I wanted to create something for Wonderbar with it. It’s definitely pushing the clientele here a bit, but I hope they love it as much as I do.” —Jessica Gonzalez, beverage director at Wonderbar, Beacon, NY
1.5 oz. Åhus Aquavit
0.5 oz. Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac
0.5 oz. black pepper-infused Cocchi Americano
0.75 oz. Dolin Dry vermouth
Method: Combine, stirred, and serve up—with a brandied cherry garnish.
“This Coffee Spritz is a perfectly smooth digestif. The ingredients are simple and provide the right amount of energy and elevation to your everyday spritz.” —Tiffanie Barriere, mixologist and member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, Atlanta, GA
1 oz. Grand Brulot
1 oz. Aperol
3 oz. sparkling wine
Method: Build in a wine glass over ice. Garnish with an orange wheel.
“How many varieties of spiked eggnog can you possibly make without it just tasting the same after a while? The Cognac Latte is a new way to celebrate the winter season with class. After an incredibly challenging year, why mess around? Go all out and splurge on some Hennessy and an old Zacapa Rum! Enjoy a Cognac-laced nog complemented with cocoa and spiced vanilla notes from Ron Zacapa Centenario 23, a booster of Mr. Black cold brew, and the velvety texture of barista oat milk just to add that extra level of lusciousness and of course, heavy whipped egg. A holiday staple reimagined topped with grated cinnamon bark and nutmeg.” —Piero Procida, food and beverage director at The London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills, Los Angeles
1 oz. Ron Zacapa
1 oz. Hennessy VS
0.5 oz. Mr. Black Coffee Liqueur
0.75 oz. simple syrup (1:1)
1 whole egg
1 oz. barista oat milk, Oatly preferred
Method: Add Zacapa, Hennessy, Mr. Black, simple syrup, oat milk, and 1 whole egg. Dry shake for 30 seconds, add ice, and a quick heavy shake. Fine strain into a coupe. grate cinnamon bark and nutmeg on top.
“Pears, much like apples and pumpkins, are a fruit associated with the colder months. A light drink with a savory taste, Hennessy VSOP works well with the juicy sweetness of the pear and is contrasted by the tartness of fresh-squeezed lemon juice along with a few dashes of plum bitters to add complexity. Overall, a rustic and pleasant drink that isn’t difficult by any stretch to make—and it will certainly make for a memorable experience.” —Donny Largotta, Beverage Director at The Chester (Gansevoort Meatpacking), New York City
2 oz. Hennessy VSOP
0.75 oz. pear purée
0.5 oz. lemon juice
0.5 oz. pear-infused simple syrup
2 dashes plum bitters
Method: Combine ingredients and shake. Serve on the rocks.
“When the cold months rolls around it’s time for some dark spirits. This drink highlights the sweetness of the Cognac—along with the spiciness of the rye. The combo makes it a complex, interesting, and well balanced. An overall fantastic drink. I can’t recommend it highly enough.” —Gavin Humes, food and beverage director at Scratch Restaurants
1 oz. Cognac
1 oz. rye whiskey
1 tsp. demerara syrup
4 dashes Angosutra bitters
Campari (ideally in an aerosolizer)
Method: Add all ingredients except the Campari to a mixing glass with ice. Stir until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass. Spritz the cocktail with Campari. If you don’t have an aerosolizer, just drop a few drops of Campari on the top of the glass. Finish with a twist of orange peel, rub the peel on the rim of the glass, and discard.
LA VIE EN ROSE
“La Vie en Rose essentially means to see the world through rose-colored glasses. And this cocktail is designed to help you do just that. With Cognac, Champagne, raspberry, absinthe, and rose water, this drink is a healthy dose of romance and escapism that we all very much need this year.” —Hannah Chamberlain, founder at @SpiritedLA
1.5 oz. Frapin 1270
0.5 oz. lemon juice
0.5 oz. raspberry syrup
1 drop rose water
Absinthe, as rinse
Champagne, to top
Method: Shake first four ingredients before fine straining the ingredients into a glass that’s been rinsed with absinthe. Pour in the Champagne until it reaches the brim. Garnish with rose petal.
D’USSÉ HOT TODDY
“When the weather starts to cool and I feel a crispness in the air, I switch out my fruit-forward cocktail ingredients for spiced, aromatic flavors that mix perfectly with D’ussé’s pleasant and full-bodied smoothness. A Cognac hot toddy is typically my go-to: It’s an easy-to-make crowd pleaser that’s perfect for serving at home—plus it packs a good kick. All you need is D’ussé VSOP, hot black tea, and honey—and you’re all set.” —Sullivan Doh, Global Brand Ambassador at D’ussé
2 oz. D’ussé VSOP Cognac
4 oz. hot black tea
1 oz. honey syrup
1 orange peel, for garnish
Cinnamon stick, for garnish
Method: Steep tea in a glass mug. Add Cognac and honey syrup, then stir. Garnish with orange peels and a cinnamon stick.
“This recipe is one of my favorites because it’s so simple and easy to make that you will feel like you’re the cocktail master of your kitchen. The flavors of the Apothic Red combined with the Cognac, cinnamon, and lemon juice is perfect for these cold months.” —Josue Romero, spirit consultant, The Garnish Guy (@the_garnishguy)
Ingredients (2 Servings):
2 oz. Apothic Red
1 oz. Cognac
0.5 oz. cinnamon syrup
0.25 oz. lemon juice
3 oz. hot water
Cinnamon stick, for garnish
Apple slices, for garnish
Star anise, for garnish
Nutmeg, for garnish
Method: Place all the ingredients into a heat resistant container, including the garnishes, and stir until all the ingredients are fully combined. makes two servings.
LA CONGA BLICOTI
“This cocktail is named after a French jazz song by the iconic Josephine Baker, and I wanted it to capture the song’s refined but playful sense of fun. It’s similar to the classic sidecar cocktail, but the banana, lime, and demerara give it a nice tropical update. It’s easy to make and very easy to drink.” —Hannah Chamberlain, founder at @SpiritedLA
2 oz. Frapin 1270
1 oz. fresh lime juice
0.5 oz. Giffard Banane du Brésil
0.5 oz. demerara syrup
Method: Shake all ingredients (other than the garnish) and double strain them into a coupe. Garnish with banana chips and tropical flower.
“Drinking a sidecar transports me to a dimly lit cocktail bar in Cognac. The aromatics and floral aromas produced by the forgotten Colombard grape variety balances really well with the complex orange aroma of Ferrand Dry Curaçao and the acidity of the lemon.” —Nico de Soto, beverage consultant and owner of Danico in Paris and Mace in New York City
2 oz. Ferrand Ambré Cognac
0.5 oz. Ferrand Dry Curaçao orange liqueur
0.75 oz. fresh lemon juice
0.25 oz. simple sugar
Orange twist, for garnish
Method: Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into a coupe and garnish with orange twist.