Cognac is a bit of a mysterious drink: everyone knows it, but what is it anyway? What is the difference with vieux? And you can also cook with it (spoiler: yes, you can!). Culy dives into the wonderful world of this spirit.
How is cognac made?
Cognac is a product made from wine: a wine distillate to be precise. The drink comes from the eponymous Cognac in France. That is by the way the first criterion for speaking of real cognac: it must be produced from that region, just like champagne, for example. Other legal requirements to be able to speak of cognac are:
- Cognac must be made from white grapes grown in the Cognac region. Usually it is a mix of Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche and Colombard.
- The wine used for cognac must be double distilled . That is the process by which wine is heated and begins to evaporate. When that vapor makes contact with a cold surface, it condenses again into a liquid, but this time with a much more concentrated flavor than the original wine.
- This wine distillate must then mature in wooden barrels for at least 2.5 years . This is the period when aromas begin to develop.
- Finally, the alcohol percentage also plays a role: it must be at least 40% .
And so wine transforms into what we know as cognac.
How does that translate in taste? As an aromatic spirit with notes of vanilla, plum, caramel, orange and apricot – although of course many other flavors can be recognized in it. And of course there are also many different varieties, where the makers play with the flavors.
brandy vs. bad
Fun fact: in the Netherlands we actually have our own cognac: called vieux. Unlike cognac, however, it is not made from wine but from a neutral grain or molasses alcohol. Adding water and flavorings produces a drink that is very similar in appearance and taste to its French counterpart.
Curious how that tastes? Nowadays there is a quality craft version of Vieux on the market: the Voerman Vieux . Very tasty to drink neat, and also a great base for cocktails. De vieux contains botanicals such as bitter orange, figs, cardamom, cinnamon and ginger root.
Cooking with cognac
Whether you have a bottle of cognac or a bottle of vieux at home: in fact, both are interesting enough to use more often in the kitchen. For example, the ladies behind the great DINNER put a dash of cognac in their chicory soup with blue cheese : genius.
It is also sometimes used in pom, such as with this vegetarian pom from Paramaribo by Judith Cyrus. In any case, the spirits match very well with fuller ingredients such as meat, cheese, nuts and chocolate. And a dash of it can’t be missing in classic pepper cream sauce . Jeroen Meus has a recipe for salmon marinated in cognac , a bit like gravad lax. Sounds delicious.
Source: Culy by culy.nl
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