You've Been Drinking Cognac All Wrong

For those that are not familiar with cognac, but enjoy other drinks with notes of caramel and vanilla like different kinds of whiskies, you'll undoubtedly want to venture into this delicious French liquor. Cognac is simply a type of brandy that is specifically made in the Cognac region of France just like champagne comes from its namesake region of the country too. If your knowledge of brandy fails you, the deliciously sweet liquor comes from a second distilling of wine (via Food & Wine).

Thanks to distilling the wine in oak barrels, cognac takes on the familiar aromas and notes of whiskey, bourbon, and even scotch. Cognac has clear vanilla and caramel notes, but also nutty or earthy notes too. Though this process is done in France, it was actually invented by the Dutch so they could ship French wine home before it spoiled. That's likely why you'll also see more people drinking cognac outside of France.

How to drink cognac the correct way

If you have only been using cognac for cocktails, you have definitely been drinking it all wrong. While younger bottles of cognac are suitable for cocktails like Sidecars or even Mint Juleps, according to Liquor, older bottles should be enjoyed alone in a glass without ice. Liquor even suggests trying early versions of both the French 75 and Sazerac, which featured cognac in their recipes if you're feeling adventurous.

Cognac is distinguished by four general age categories that will help you determine which bottles are best served neat and which are great for mixing in cocktails. The bottles with lower ages are better for cocktails and are typically marked VS or VSOP. These initials stand for very special and very superior old pale. VS bottles are made with a blend of cognac that is at its youngest two years old. VSOP must be made with the youngest cognac aged four years.

The older varieties are marked XO or Napoléon. Napoléon is a relatively new category that was created in 2018 and denotes bottles made with cognacs of six to 10 years. Until 2018, XO, or extra-old, could be six years or older. After 2018, the initials signify bottles that include cognacs that are at least 10 years old. So, make sure to pay close attention to your bottle the next time you make a drink.