Louis Royer, an iconic Cognac house dating to 1853 and led by the fifth generation of its founding family, announced today the winners of the Third “Show Me the Proof!” High Proof Cognac Cocktail Competition held on Dec. 1, 2014.
Timothy Miner (The Long Island Bar) won the Grand Prize of an all-expense paid trip to France for two. Second and third place winners were Jason Cousins (Da Claudio) and Gregory Buda (The Dead Rabbit), respectively, with each awarded a cash prize of $1,000.
Included below are the winning recipes.
Grand Prize: The Frenchmen Street Cocktail by Timothy Miner (The Long Island Bar)
2 oz. Louis Royer “Force 53” VSOP Cognac
1/2 oz. Sweet Vermouth
1/2 oz. Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao
1 barspoon White Crème de Cacao
3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
Second Place: Simmer Down by Jason Cousins (Da Claudio)
1 1/2 oz. Louis Royer “Force 53” VSOP Cognac
1 oz. Antica Distilleria Russo Nocino
1/2 oz. Caffè Borghetti Espresso Liqueur
2 dashes Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Bitters
1 piece Flamed Orange Disc, garnish
Third Place: Orientation by Gregory Buda (The Dead Rabbit)
1 3/4 oz. Louis Royer “Force 53” VSOP Cognac
1/2 oz. Barbadillo Amontillado Sherry
3/4 oz. Orgeat Syrup
1/2 oz. Lemon Juice
3 dashes Angostura Bitters
The Japanese Cocktail was created in New York City in 1860 by “Professor” Jerry Thomas to celebrate the occasion of the first Japanese diplomatic mission to the United States.
One member of the Japanese delegation, their translator, Tateishi “Tommy” Onojirou, was a bit of a bon vivant, so it makes sense that he would have made his way to Jerry Thomas’s bar. Apparently Thomas whipped up this drink for him — thus the name, despite a lack of any ingredients that are even remotely Japanese.
Properly stocking a home bar can be an expensive proposition. There are many different products you likely will want to buy, and a lot of them aren't cheap. The good news is, you probably won't be going through the bottles that quickly, and most alcohol stays good for a very long time.*
GIN There are three different major styles of gin: London Dry, Old Tom and Genever. (You could also throw Plymouth Gin into the mix.) The good news is you only need to buy one bottle to start: London Dry. Tanqueray has long been my favorite, but Bombay Sapphire and Beefeater are excellent as well. Buy whichever one is cheapest.
VODKA It's easy to spend more money on vodka then you need to, especially if you reach for the Grey Goose because you "heard it's the best." By all means, pick up an expensive bottle if you're feeling flush. My favorite, which is medium-priced, is Stolichnaya. But you'll get by very well with some Sobieski.
RUM Rum is a little more challenging, because rums vary a lot depending on what country they're from, what color they are (light/white vs. gold/dark), how long they're aged, etc. I would recommend starting out with two bottles, one of white rum and one of gold rum. Cruzan (from the U.S. Virgin Islands) is recommended — both cheaper and better than the ubiquitous Bacardi. But if you can find Flor de Caña (from Nicaragua) it only costs a little more and is excellent. If you don't drink much rum and only want to buy one bottle, I suggest you get some Appleton V/X, a very versatile and tasty rum.
TEQUILA Tequila has grown enormously in popularity over the past several years, which means there are now a lot of great choices on the shelves, in all kinds of prices. If your goal is to make Margaritas and other similar drinks, you'll want a silver tequila. I recommend either Camarena or Milagro. They're both affordable and easy to find.
WHISKEY This is a tough one, because there are so many types and so many choices. Do you go with a Scotch, Canadian or Irish? Bourbon, rye or Tennessee? If I were buying just one type, I would probably go with bourbon, and would probably get Maker's Mark. Maker's isn't the favorite whiskey of a lot of people, but it's a very good one and it's something that almost any whiskey drinker will drink without complaining. If you want to branch out and add a Scotch, I'd go with Johnnie Walker Black. Again, not always a favorite, but a crowd pleaser.
BRANDY Cognac (which is brandy made according to certain rules in a particular area of France) was hot a decade or so back when the hip hop community discovered it, and brands like Hennessy and Remy Martin were name-checked in rap songs. It's cooled off since then, so there are plenty of good bargains to be found. (And also plenty of bottles that will cost you as much as a nice vacation.) If you want a simple brandy, I find Raynal to be quite good. It works fine in a lot of cocktails and won't set you back much at all. If you're looking for something a little more sophisticated, go for one of the cognacs made by Pierre Ferrand. (Their Ambre is very good and only costs around $40.)
ORANGE LIQUEUR If you're going to make any kind of cocktails, you're going to need some modifiers, with the most common being an orange liqueur. It might be triple sec or Curacao, but in order to make a Margarita or a Sidecar or Mai Tai, you're going to need something. There are many different types of orange liqueur, ranging from cheap to expensive. Unfortunately, the cheap stuff is usually not very good. On the upside, a bottle will last a long time, so it doesn't hurt as much to splurge. If you want a dryer liqueur, go with Cointreau. If you want a sweeter one, go with Grand Marnier. Yes, they're expensive. But they're so good that you'll be glad you spent the extra money.
VERMOUTH If you're planning to make Martinis or Manhattans, you'll need to get some vermouth. Sweet (red) vermouth goes in a Manhattan and dry (white) vermouth goes in a Martini. There are some high-end brands that are delicious. But on the affordable end of things Martini (sweet) and Noilly Pratt (dry) work very well.
You're not going to get this done without spending a couple hundred bucks. But once you do, you'll be able to make a lot of drinks — and save yourself a ton of dough over what you'd spend in a bar. Plus, with a little practice, you'll be able to whip up some great cocktails that will quickly make you the envy of all your friends and neighbors.
*Except for vermouth. Vermouth is only good for a couple of months once you open it. And only if you keep it in the refrigerator. And yes, I know vermouth isn't a spirit. Neither is orange liqueur.
1 1/2 oz Bourbon Whiskey 3/4 oz Simple Syrup 1/2 Bar Spoon Vanilla Extract (a couple dashes) 3 oz Whole Milk or Half and Half Garnish with freshly-grated nutmeg and/or cinnamon.
Shake well with ice, then strain into an ice-filled Old Fashioned glass.
Mardi Gras is coming, and this classic New Orleans brunch cocktail is the perfect way to start off a day of revelry. Or any day, for that matter.
The Milk Punch is often made with brandy instead of bourbon. (That's the way they make it at Commander's Palace.) I like bourbon better, though, so I make it this way. You can also substitute rum or spiced rum.
Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula Cognac Brandy/Cognac Final Grade: B+ Price: $45 (750ml)
Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao Orange Liqueur Final Grade: A- Price: $30 (750ml)
Cognac Ferrand is one of the hottest companies in the spirits world today. Mixologists, critics and connoisseurs have been following the French distillery with great interest as they introduce one excellent product after another. The force behind the fine line of Plantation Rums, in addition to their cognacs, Pierre Ferrand is noted for spirits that are especially well suited both for cocktails and for enjoying on their own.
As a result, I was excited to try two of the companies latest products: Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula Cognac and Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao. Both were developed by the experts at Cognac Ferrand, with assistance from the esteemed cocktail and spirits historian David Wondrich.
The 1840 Original Formula Cognac is what was referred to in the 19th century as a "three star" cognac — the equivalent today to what is typically called "VS." It's a younger brandy, lively and with lots of flavor. It was modeled after an extremely rare cognac that had been preserved from 1840, and is designed primarily to be mixed in cocktails.
This cognac has a grapey, slightly floral aroma. Pleasant, although without a lot of complexity. The flavor is rich and slightly sweet, with just enough oak to give it some nice, spicy notes. It is very smooth for a 90-proof brandy, with a medium-long finish. You could certainly sip this cognac if you wanted, and enjoy it quite well.
Like the cognac, the Dry Curaçao was developed to mirror the style of a 19th-century predecessor. It's blended from brandy and cognac, flavored with the peels of Curaçao oranges and various spices, and then barrel aged to smooth out the rough edges. This is what traditional curaçao is supposed to taste like.
This curaçao opens with a bright and authentic smell of sweet oranges. It has none of the artificial aroma of cheap orange liqueur — this is the real stuff. The flavor follows in the same fashion: sweet and rich, bursting with orange flavor and hints of vanilla. It's not quite as complex as I might have wished. A touch more spice would have really sent it over the moon. But it's undeniably very tasty and well balanced. (And also extremely smooth for its 80 proof.)
Good enough as they are on their own, these products were both developed to be mixed in cocktails, so that's where the true proof lies. One of the cocktails suggested by the distillery is a Brandy Crusta, and I thought that would be an ideal way to sample these two spirits in conjunction with each other.
Brandy Crusta from Julie Reiner, Clover Club (NYC)
2 oz Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula Cognac 1/2 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao 1/2 oz Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur 1/2 oz Fresh Lemon Juice Dash of Angostura Bitters
Rim a snifter with sugar. Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into the snifter filled with ice cubes. Garnish with an orange peel.
What a delicious cocktail! The flavors blend together perfectly; the sweetness of the curaçao balancing with the lemon juice, the maraschino adding delightful floral notes, and the bitters adding some spice to bring it all together. I don't ordinarily drink brandy cocktails, but this one is definitely going in the repertoire.
As good as they are individually, the Pierre Ferrand cognac and curaçao mix up beautifully, especially when used together. They're definite winners.
Report Card: Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula Cognac
Congratulations to Pierre Ferrand Cognac, a brand that has been making a lot of noise in recent years.
Cognac Ferrand is honored to announce that Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula Cognac® has won Best New Product at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail® Spirited Awards. Pierre Ferrand 1840 was launched last year at the same cocktail festival to great fanfare and has since become the darling and go-to Cognac for bartenders across the world. At a time when outstanding bartenders are creating cocktails in the same manner that master chefs create great dishes, this win for a Cognac heralds the resurgence of Cognac and Cognac cocktails and puts this versatile spirit back where it once was a mainstay – behind the bar!
Created by Cognac Ferrand owner Alexandre Gabriel with help from cocktail historian David Wondrich to recapture the spirit of the quintessential cocktail days of the 1800s, Pierre Ferrand Cognac 1840 Original Formula is a revival of the classic three-star Cognac. Back in the nineteenth century, when the art of the cocktail as we know it first came together, barkeepers knew that nothing made for a better mixed drink than a good “three-star” Cognac. Pierre Ferrand 1840 is bottled at 90 proof, higher than most Cognacs, making it exceptionally mixable in cocktails like Crustas, Juleps and Punches. For more info, cocktail recipes/images, click here.
Alexandre Gabriel says, “Winning this recognition from my peers is both hugely gratifying and humbling. We are a small producer in the middle of the Cognac vineyards. At Cognac Ferrand we are a team of passionate characters doing what we love to do – make great spirits. Cognac deserves to be back behind the bar in a place of honor where it enjoyed decades of prominence as THE spirit for cocktails. We created Pierre Ferrand 1840 to be that kind of Cognac and to receive this honor shows that we did the right thing. We are very happy.”
The Spirited Awards are the highlight of Tales of the Cocktail, the annual five-day cocktail festival in New Orleans created by Ann and Paul Tuennerman that this year celebrates its 10th Anniversary. Each July, Tales attracts more than 22,000 people who are passionate about all things spirits-related. This year, 17 illustrious international judges – including world-class bartenders, bar owners, brand ambassadors and spirits/cocktail historians, experts and authors – voted in the Best New Product category and deemed Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula the winner. It is the first Cognac to win this prestigious award. For a list of judges, click here.
"Cognac has always been a well-respected spirit, but without a lot of visibility in modern cocktails,” says Ann Tuennerman, founder of Tales of the Cocktail. “Pierre Ferrand 1840, by winning Best New Product at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail, has shown that Cognac is also able to get the respect of bartenders, with a product that has the rich and sophisticated flavor for sipping as well as the depth and complexity necessary to let it shine in a cocktail."
Upon receiving the award, Gabriel dedicated part of his acceptance speech to the bartenders of the world. “Our job is to build fine instruments but it’s for you to play them,” he said. “It’s for you to make the music.”
Joaquin Simo, the 2012 Spirited Award winner for American Bartender of the Year, is one of the 1840 music makers, and says: “Cognac is a historically significant cocktail ingredient whose release from its imprisonment in a snifter is long overdue. Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac fills an important niche for cocktail bartenders, providing us with a delicious and high-proof spirit designed for mixing in both classic cocktails and modern interpretations. Fruity and floral notes provide a highly versatile base while the higher alcohol percentage boosts flavors and ensures the traditional character of Cognac remains front and center. Its combination of high quality and mixable price point ensure it will be found on the back bars and speed rails of great bars around the world.”
Mr. Simo was recently a bartender at acclaimed Death & Co. (2010 Spirited Award winner, Best American Bar) and will be owner/operator of Pouring Ribbons, a bar opening soon in NYC’s East Village where Pierre Ferrand 1840 will be available.
Writing in Esquire Magazine, David Wondrich muses about the changes ever-present in the spirits business. In favor of "innovation" and the drive for something new, old brands disappear, new expressions appear, formulas are changed, and the world as we know it is turned upside down.
But not with these four spirits that Wondrich recommends as perennial favorites that you can find anywhere and always count on. Absolut is not a vodka I drink very often — my go-to is usually Stoli — but the other three are favorites of mine as well.
Absolut vodka ($20). Absolut's core expression — the plain-old 80-proof Absolut — is as stable as granite, probably because every drop has always been made from winter wheat, yeast, and artesian water in one distillery in southern Sweden. Impeccably clean and slightly yeasty. Perfect.
Tanqueray gin ($20). It's what real gin tastes like: piney, a little bit sweet (but not sugary or in any way cloying), and slightly lemony, with a bracing whiff of clean alcohol to remind you it's bottled at the traditional 94.6 proof. The martini gin of all martini gins.
Wild Turkey 101 bourbon ($20). Okay, back in 1979, the bottle had a big red "8" on it for the number of years this classic premium bourbon had been aged. Now the eight-year costs extra. But if the 101 is younger, it isn't by much — the whiskey is still big and warming, not hiding its high proof but still smooth and rich and just what you want in an old-fashioned.
Courvoisier VSOP ($35). Fresh and appealing. Just put it in a glass and drink it.
The redoubtable Camper English has a regular feature on ShakeStir.com where he rounds up the New Booze that's coming out. It makes for an interesting read, both to admire the latest cool stuff, and to cringe at the dreck the marketeers are foisting on the public.
Here's a list of the last two months' worth of new products. Click through to read more about each item.