Cognac: the spirit that's made for entertaining

Cognac: the spirit that's made for entertaining

by Great British Chefs 03 December 2019

Looking to impress at your next get-together? Put the Prosecco down and discover how a bottle of cognac is the perfect ingredient for simple cocktails and food matching at home.

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.

As the nights become longer and we start to get into the festive spirit, parties tend to be high on the agenda from now until the new year. Whether it’s a few friends coming over for a catchup, a sit-down dinner with extended family or a full-blown house party, winter seems to bring us together like no other time of year. And for those of us into our food, we enjoy nothing more than spending time curating the perfect menus to keep our guests merry and entertained.

The same goes for what we plan on serving from the drinks cabinet. As a nation we’re collecting interesting bottles of spirits, exploring the world of wine and stocking up on craft beers more than ever before. Keen home mixologists are making flavoured syrups, infused spirits and scouring markets for interesting glassware to serve their creations in. While simple tipples such as a glass of Prosecco or a gin and tonic will always have their place, those of us who are looking to impress now like to push the boat out and serve something a little more memorable.

There’s certainly no shortage of bottles to buy and mix together, but one spirit that’s really making waves in cocktail bars across the country right now is cognac. Traditionally stereotyped as something you sip like whisky, this very special French brandy is bursting with complex flavours that lend themselves beautifully to not only cocktails, but alongside food too. On top of that, it’s got an incredible story behind it, making it an instant talking point for people who like to know more about the provenance of what they’re eating and drinking. Rémy Martin is one of the finest cognac houses in France and its expressions are perfectly suited for serving with food or mixing into cocktails – take a look at some ideas on how to serve cognac below and discover why buying a bottle should be high up on your party checklist.



Cognac is a noble spirit that certainly holds its own when enjoyed neat or over ice. But when mixed into cocktails – be they simple or complex – the flavours within the liquid can change completely. Rémy Martin produces two cognacs that are perfect for mixing – its VSOP is incredibly versatile with an elegant, fruity and vanilla-forward flavour, while the 1738 Royal Accord boasts rich dark fruits, toffee and spice. Both can easily become the centrepiece of a knockout cocktail, be it a simple mix or something more layered.

If you have a bottle of Rémy Martin’s 1738, showcase its stunning flavour by filling a highball with ice and pouring in 50ml of the cognac and adding 125ml ginger ale. Give it a stir, garnish with a lime wedge and you’ll have an effortlessly simple cocktail that will shine a totally new light on the spirit. This works equally well with Rémy Martin VSOP when tonic water replaces the ginger ale – a delightful twist on the British classic.

Have guests coming round that think they don’t like dark spirits? Serve them a cognac-based Tom Collins – muddle some fresh rosemary in a shaker, then add ice, 50ml of Rémy Martin VSOP along with 10ml sugar syrup and 10ml lemon juice. Give it a shake, pour over ice and top up with soda water, garnished with a rosemary sprig and lemon wedge. The lemon juice, sugar syrup and soda water blunts the alcoholic edge, allowing you to really appreciate the many different flavours within. This is a simple cocktail to adapt to the seasons – for Christmas entertaining, try infusing the sugar syrup with a little cinnamon and clove for the ultimate festive cocktail.

Food pairings

If making cocktails isn’t really your thing, then try serving cognac alongside different foods for an easy (and delicious) conversation starter at your next dinner party. Rémy Martin’s XO cognac is a joy to experience, all velvety and smooth with an incredibly complex combination of flavours which come to the fore depending on what you eat alongside it. Its notes of summer fruits, nuts and citrus makes it a natural companion to sweet desserts, but it also cuts through the fattiness of cheese and takes on a completely different character when paired with salami and charcuterie.

Once chilled or served over ice, Rémy Martin XO also starts working well with the likes of shellfish, and its bold flavour means it can stand up to other flavourful ingredients such as duck, wild mushrooms and pork when at room temperature. There’s plenty of scope to experiment with this cognac, and once you taste for yourself how well it goes with both sweet and savoury dishes, it’ll quickly become your go-to when you’re after a food and drink pairing with a difference.

After dinner

While cognac is treading new ground in the worlds of cocktails and food matching, it’s still a fantastic drink to serve on its own after dinner. A bottle of Rémy Martin cognac really marks an occasion, sparking conviviality with a touch of luxury. We can’t think of a better way to end the night than with small glass of cognac, perhaps with some chocolate or a piece of cheese to nibble alongside. Whether it’s a VSOP, 1738 or XO, each bottle has its own unique characteristics that make it well-suited to particular occasions; one thing that ties them all together, however, is that they all taste incredible.