The Tasting Panel magazine

January / February 2017

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january/february 2017  /  the tasting panel  /  107 Ambassador. "Cognac is often associated with after-dinner drinks, but throughout most of the 19th century, it was one of the most common base ingredients in cocktails," she said. As Bates watched the bartender mixing Courvoisier VS with Pierre Dry Curaçao, Maraschino cherry liqueur, simple syrup and a dash of Angostura Bitters, she advised him to crust only half the glass with sugar, as every palate is different and sugar on only half the rim allows guests to decide what they prefer. Later, seated and well-primed with Crustas, we were promptly served up the first of the evening's several surprises. Apparently, the practice of preheating the traditional brandy snifter prior to serving Cognac is old hat. So is the snifter itself. Its bowled shape was designed to facilitate warming in the hand in the era when cold climates and cellars repressed aromatic esters. Our Courvoisier VS, this time without any cocktail ingredient sidekicks, was delivered in a sleek, thin-stemmed sherry glass—the better to focus the aromatics without the need for warming. Any misgivings we might have had about pairing food with neat pours of strong spirits like Cognac evaporated with the very first course. Burrata and Brussels sprouts easily held their own with the VS. The burrata's unctuous texture mitigated the elevated alcohol level, and satsumas, the inspired accompaniment, enhanced the Cognac's orange citrus aromas. Marcona almonds, Pecorino cheese and Meyer lemon dressing fulfilled the same purposes in the shaved Brussels sprouts salad. The second course was a brilliant pas-de-deux between Courvoisier's VSOP and two different pasta dishes. Over potato gnocchi with roasted root vegetables and veal-porcini Bolognese, we learned from Bates that VSOP stands for Very Superior Old Pale, "pale" being a reference to aging in older oak barrels. "It takes fine wine to make a great Cognac," Bates said. "The Cognac process begins with still wine, which will eventually undergo a painstaking double distillation." With that knowledge, a Cognac dinner in wine country began to make more sense. As for vineyards, there are six crus in the Cognac region, but Courvoisier only uses grapes from the top four. In addition to the amount of aging time, the stylistic signature of each Courvoisier level, or marque, is determined by its unique blend. Given a choice between two main dishes, the heftier short ribs seemed a more intuitive match than the halibut. However, Bates reassured the group that Cognac's Atlantic maritime influence would make it fish-compatible. When the Courvoisier XO arrived with a chocolate and pear dessert tart, we noted the more distinct violet and lavender traits imparted via the slate soils of the Borderies cru vineyard. The evening closed with a tasting of Courvoisier's rare Connoisseur Collection 21 Year Old. Courvoisier® Cognac and Liqueur, 18-40% alc./vol. Courvoisier Import Company, Deerfield, IL USA. Courvoisier is a trademark of Courvoisier S.A.S. ©2017 Courvoisier S.A.S. CRUSTA by Ryan Gotti ◗ 1¾ oz. Courvoisier VS ◗ ¼ oz. Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao ◗ ¼ oz. house-made Maraschino liqueur ◗ ½ oz. fresh lemon juice ◗ ¼ oz. simple syrup ◗ 2 dashes Angostura Bitters ◗ Sugar rim Courvoisier VSOP tasted alongside potato gnocchi with roasted root vegetables and veal-porcini Bolognese. Courvoisier XO was paired with a chocolate and pear dessert tart with ricotta, pistachios, choco- late sauce and sautéed pears.

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