The living soul of good grape wine, one of the purist of spirits, a ministering angel without wings yet visible, always ready to act and to help.--Andre Simon
My first experience of Cognac was inauspicious at best. During dinner after an interview for my first real job. The waiter came by with a humidor and Courvoisier. Yes, it was THAT long ago. We had cigars and Cognac. Nobody dropped dead from the smoke either. To be honest, I have never cared for Courvoisier from that day. Too heavy and strong flavored for my taste. It actually rather ruined the night for me and I never drank it again. I stuck with cigars. For a time.
Despite my poor first experience, I clung to at least the notion of Cognac. I finally discovered that, like Scotch whiskey, there are many different sorts of Cognac suitable for many different tastes. My romanticized view of cognac finally intersected with fine taste and a very reasonable price. In the form of Ansac VSOP. About $23.00 a bottle at my liquor store. Or an even nicer bottle of Remy Martin VSOP for $50.00 if I am really flush that month. In any event, there is nothing like a nice tot of Cognac to cap a great meal, defrost your body after skiing, or lace your coffee on a cold, rainy winter night.
Cognac comes from special ground located here:
They say that it takes ten casks of wine to make one cask of Cognac. There are only certain grapes from which it can be legally made. It is distilled twice through copper pot stills. Then aged in NEW oak barrels for at least two years. The youngest spirit used in the assembly of the Cognac determines the rating of the finished product. VS [Very Special] Cognac has a youngest spirit of at least four and a half years, while VSOP [Very Superior Old Pale] Cognac has a youngest component spirit of from four and a half to six and a half years old. These are minimums. If you regularly drink the eldest Cognac of the XO, Imperial or similar class, then I can't tell you anything you don't already know. If you want to see a really nice web site that has an animation showing the Cognac distilling process look at http://getinteresting.com/. The Esquire Drink Book [circa 1956] stated that there is no benefit in quality or taste to be gained from drinking ancient Cognac at astronomical prices. I cannot comment on this statement since I have not had the opportunity to drink ancient Cognac at astronomical prices. But I can vouch without qualification for Ansac and Remy.
The Ansac VSOP answers all my needs in a Cognac. It does not overpower me. I can use it for a flambe' if need be without calling my [former] investment man. If, through some horrid miscue, I should fumble the bottle I do not have to throw myself on the shards. And I find it a very fortifying drink. Also, you would not want to make one of my favorite after-dinner drinks with $500.00 a bottle Cognac. The Stinger.
I put in an extra large photo of this cocktail because I am particularly thirsty writing this. Also, there may be some of those 1970s era air-brushed ad agency tricks in this photo that hide the word "sex" in the shadow patterns to allure us and make us rush out and buy things. I'll report on the content of the photo later. After a few Stingers.
I digress. The Epic lifestyle requires developing a knack for entertaining one's self. Try this for interesting effect. Try going into any bar or restaurant and ordering a Stinger late at night. A true bartender will not blink an eye. If you find yourself in a town where true bartenders reside. Out in the hinterlands, you are more likely to be given a blank look and an attempt to palm off a Singapore Sling, a Slider, or goodness knows what else. You have to be on your guard in these things. Not always easy after a hefty night. Luckily, this is a simple recipe. Easy to keep in mind even after a couple of cocktail hour martinis and a bottle of wine at dinner. Three parts Cognac to one part white Creme De Menthe. Shaken. Then served on the rocks. A very fine way to cap an Epic evening. Cary Grant and Jayne Mansfield thought so in "Kiss Them For Me" as they were seen numerous times downing Stingers. As did James Bond and Tiffany Case in the book "Diamonds are Forever". And Bond another, more dangerous, time. With Felix Leiter. At the Nassau Casino bar. A little caper called "Thunderball".
So we are in good company, you and I. With Cary and Jayne. James and Tiffany. Having Stingers. In some bar where it is always midnight.