How to pair cognac with food

How to pair cognac with food

by Great British Chefs 19 October 2020

The complex flavour of cognac means it’s far more than something to sip on after a meal. We take a look at how the spirit matches beautifully with both sweet and savoury dishes, shining a light on five award-winning desserts from top chefs specifically created to be enjoyed with Rémy Martin XO.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Food and drink pairings almost always focus on how the complexity and different flavours in wine can complement – and even improve – the taste of a particular dish. If you’re after a drink that boasts all the complexity and terroir of wine, look no further than cognac – a very special and protected brandy from western France.

If you’re unfamiliar with cognac it’s simplest to think of it as a distilled wine, but take a look at our introduction to cognac for a better understanding of what makes it so special here. Fiercely protected, it can only be made in a certain region of France to time-honoured methods, aged for at least two years in oak barrels after being double distilled. The result is an amber-hued liquid which is warming, sweet, spicy and bursting with subtle, complex flavours. It’s the nuanced and myriad notes found within each sip that makes it so suited to pairing with food – perhaps something not many of us think of when it comes to stronger, distilled spirits.

Cognac’s ability to pair with both salty and sweet flavours means it’s far more versatile than most of us give it credit for; as a very general overview, the spirit can cut through fatty savoury foods like charcuterie and cheese and complement the sweetness of desserts and chocolate – but go beyond the basics and you'll find it works with so much more.

Of course, not all cognacs taste the same, and different styles (VS, VSOP, XO and vintage) will be better suited to certain pairings – just like wine. No other cognac house puts as much emphasis on food pairing as Rémy Martin, which produces cognacs made exclusively with eaux-de-vie from the Grande and Petite Champagne areas of the Cognac region (the areas regarded as the epicentre of cognac production).

While it doesn’t look like wine is going to be knocked off the top spot in the food matching rankings anytime soon, we’re beginning to understand how much other tipples have to offer. Cognac is a fantastic drink served neat, over ice or as part of a cocktail, but it can also cut through the fattiness of salami, complement the creaminess of cheese, bring out the delicate flavours of seafood and pair with a wide range of desserts. Next time you’re entertaining, try serving glasses of Rémy Martin with your food and see how it matches up – you might be surprised at just how well they go together.

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Besides being paired with food, Rémy Martin XO best reveals its complexity neat, or served with a large ice cube (which melts more slowly than lots of smaller ones).

For an even more discerning experience, pair Rémy Martin XO with hand-carved Bellota ham or with grainy aged Parmesan cheese to reveal the spirit's smoky, umami flavours. To bring out the sweeter and spicier aromas, try pairing with tree-ripened black figs, dark chocolate or walnuts and raisins.

There’s no need to stop at desserts, cheese and charcuterie, however – something Rémy Martin's collaboration with French two-Michelin-starred chef Jean-Francois Piège demonstrates. The spirit works surprisingly well with seafood, for example (scallops and lobster in particular), and can stand up to bold ingredients such as duck, wild mushrooms and pork belly.

Jean-Francois Piège has also developed specific dishes to be expertly paired with Rémy Martin XO, including starters of seared langoustine or celeriac cooked on wild sweet clover, butter and bergamot and mains including grilled veal on walnut shells, or Bresse chicken with celery infusion and sweet clover.

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And because a good meal is only complete with dessert, the chef has also shared one of his favourite and iconic desserts: Le Blanc a Manger. This taste of paradise, airy and smooth, perfectly enhances the sweet vanilla notes of XO.