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Cognac Chic

Cognac has evolved from being just an after-dinner drink and has shifted to the cooler, more contemporary space. Cognac has come a long way!

Cognac barrelsYou are what you drink. I truly believe that.

I drink Champagne. And Hennessy Cognac.

Yes, cognac. And it has nothing to do with the way your father drinks it. Or your grandfather.

Cognac has evolved from being just an after-dinner drink and has shifted to the cooler, more contemporary space. Moving beyond those images of a softly lit salon, your grandfather's library, the wafting aromas of his cigar or tweed-clad gentlemen swirling swifters – cognac has come a long way. Thank god!

Today, not only are the world’s finest cognacs breaking the elitist mould, but also making it to many-a-lady’s list of favourite drinks. Indeed, in the 21st century, cognac is synonymous with versatility. If you were to ask me the secret to enjoying cognac…it is to drink cognac the way you like it! With water, over ice, with soda or with ginger ale. With cognac, the list is endless.

The discerning drinker knows the prestige and heritage that is contained within a bottle of the finest cognac. And he knows how well cognac can form the base for a great long drink, being a sophisticated grape spirit with an incredibly smooth taste. A fact very few know – because the infallible grape gives us more than wine – cognac as well. For example, the legendary Hennessy Cognacs are brought to maturity in new Limousin French oak casks that yield the power of their first tannins to give birth to a bold aromatic cognac. They are a fine blend of many different eaux-de-vie carefully selected from the premier growing areas of the Cognac region and chosen for their vivacious qualities to make a bold yet harmonious blend.

Cognac grape farmsLiterally, from the carefully selected eaux-de-vie (water of life!) and precious oak casks, a cognac travels all the way from the Cognac region in France, to be enjoyed around the world.

And today, cognac has acquired a younger, more diverse following. From the style bars of New York to Shanghai, via the Paris, Londons and Cape Towns of the world, cognacs have become an individual expression of sophistication, style and pleasure – an expression that sets one apart.

My first tryst with cognac was while I lived in New York. We were celebrating a friend’s birthday. Forever loyal to my champagne, it was at this party that I was first initiated into the proverbial cognac-lovers’ club. My first sip was reminiscent of robust spice and fruit flavours. Thereafter, each following sip was punctuated by fruity notes and delicate vanilla nuances…Needless to say, I was a fan for life!

Ever since, cognac has become my ideal mantra for a night in the town or when I'm hanging out with friends at home. In a nightclub, typically, I begin with my favourite aperitif of Hennessy Ginger – three centuries of tradition and a dash of ginger ale! At home, a rock glass of Hennessy VS over cubes of ice and a dash of water. Many women prefer a delicate cognac cocktail – like a Hennessy Apple – an obvious choice when moving beyond the frivolous and stopping short of the stodgy! A Hennessy cocktail or long drink isn’t just that pink thing with an umbrella in it! It is richer, more tasteful, and elegant. True luxe.

Hennessy Cognac tourism is gaining immense popularity and it is not unusual for a cognac-lover to take that annual pilgrimage to Chateau de Bagnolet – home to Hennessy. While there, one can enjoy various tours that allow guests to discover and experience the unique quality and elaboration process of Hennessy’s iconic cognacs. Receive a guided tour by a member of the Maison Ambassadors, cross the river Charente on a Hennessy boat, and unravel the journey of the cognac from the vineyards to the final blending of the eaux-de-vie or learn the technical aspects of cognac creation at Le Peu and La Sarrazine. Chateau de Bagnolet is a dream come true for the luxe aficionado!

So the next time you’re in the mood for an elegant, luxurious soiree, I recommend a bottle of Hennessy VS, some ice, water and ginger ale. Why not get creative? Add a dash of lime juice and syrup or splash some cranberry juice into a glass of cognac… Surprise your guests. And surprise yourself!

You could be starting something hipper than you thought. Your very own tradition.

Gaurav Bhatia Moet HennessyA self-confessed luxury addict, Gaurav Bhatia is a luxury expert. Him being invited to speak at the International Herald Tribune Luxury Conference is proof enough of that. Creative, spirited and bon vivant, he loves to travel, collect antiques, and celebrate life with gastronomy and Champagne.