Picture it: a beautiful beachside villa, coconut trees, the sound of the sea and the sun glistening down on my terrace. It’s late afternoon and I’ve just come back from a swim. Dinner is still some time away and I want to relax, so I think about making myself a cocktail. I drain out the water from my freshly picked coconut and grab my bottle of VSOP cognac. I shred some ginger, some lemon rind and a little coconut sugar, and I’m satiated, with my thirst quenched.
When my parents lived in San Juan, Puerto Rico, while I was in college, I was first introduced to the any-timeof-the-day cognac cocktail. I had always linked the drink prior to that to snowy peaks, wooden lodges and cold winters, but seeing it served at the beachside was a revelation.
So when I recently met up with Maxime Pulci (the international brand ambassador for Remy Martin) at the St. Regis Hotel in Mumbai, just a few hours prior to the Remy Martin XO Opulence Revealed event, it was like two worlds that shouldn’t necessarily match up but actually did.
In the time since I was studying, I’ve gone from the luxury lifestyle to the #foodismedicine way of life. As Max and I shared our past, we synergized on the idea that understanding ourselves better led to new discoveries. And those new discoveries, in turn, led to opening ourselves up to the unlimited possibilities that exist for what we create.
Max was excited to hear about the locally sourced ingredients I used to create cocktails using cognac. As I shared my story with him, he suggested I hop over to the bar and make him the very cocktail I’d made at my beach house. I complied, albeit a bit nervously, hoping he’d not find my effort sacrilegious. As I watched him watch me, I was excited to hear his stories about how, back in Cognac, France, they often experimented, just like me, to create a series of cocktails to further break down the myth that cognac (in particular VSOP) need only be served neat.
As we sipped my creation, he offered me some helpful hints, based on his previous trials, and I was excited to incorporate them into my drink to increase its enjoyment value. As I detailed to him the reason for why I incorporated such and such ingredient, it was clear that Max and I believed in the same thing – a cocktail needs to have a purpose.
He was able to share that even further with the many guests in attendance for the XO reveal. As we took in the XO neat and interspersed our sips while nibbling on various fruits, sweets, spices and so on, Max also talked about how cognac is no longer just a drink for a certain timeframe, place, temperature or individual.
Breaking down these preconceived notions that have existed and, in some ways, possibly even been mandated by the cognac industry itself, seeing this change of thought and also celebration of the diversification of cognac in the cocktail game was wonderful.
For me, the cocktail culture creates opportunities not just for making new tastes, but is also a way to appropriately serve, in my opinion, healthy drinks with healthy ingredients. While the industry may never be able to highlight this fact, I think it’s a welcome change for drinking connoisseurs who are looking to find ways to balance their palate and their medical reports.
As the cognac revolution continues, the Indian market gets new opportunities to enjoy its classic culture and simultaneously evolve with our changing, curated desires. It’s a good thing there are progressive ambassadors like Max, who like my favorite French playwright, Moliere, find a way to both educate and entertain – it is time cognac became a drink for all of us at any time of the day.
A classic cocktail for any season.
Recipe: 30 ml cointreau 30 ml lemon juice 30 ml Remy Martin VSOP cognac. Pour into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes, shake well, then pour into a chilled martini or coupe glass.
Tip: Garnish with an orange twist.