Cheers October 2013

Cheers is dedicated to delivering hospitality professionals the information, insights and data necessary to drive their beverage business by covering trends and innovations in operations, merchandising, service and training.

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Cognac in cocktails. The beverage director for the six concepts of the New York-based Craft Restaurants Ltd. offers up several contemporary brandy sips at the 55-seat St. Louis restaurant Taste by Niche. The Old Flame ($10), for one, is a Sidecar variant and made with Camus VS Cognac, Rittenhouse rye, Cocchi Rosé, Dolin dry vermouth, Solerno blood orange liqueur and absinthe; the Sidewards ($10) mixes Camus VS Cognac with Yellow Chartreuse, Cointreau, lemon and absinthe. "We are definitely seeing a guest interest in exploring the spirit," says Murphy. Taste by Niche offers eight options in the brandy category, priced $6 to $20. "When it looks more difficult to push [brandy], the cocktail or 'mixit' is the way to go," says Flavien Desoblin, a member of the international society Compagnie des Mousquetaires d'Armagnac and owner of the Brandy Library in New York. The 80-seat, small-bites spot boasts a staggering selection of about 350 brandies, Cognacs, Armagnacs and piscos. "Cocktails would not have gotten started in the first place without brandies," he points out. Brandy Library's menu describes its mixits as "Not Just Spirits, Almost Cocktails, Sort Of Mixed Drinks: Where Mixology And Spirits Meet." Mixits ($16) combine 2 oz. of a spirit with a bar spoon of a Monin flavored syrup, served over ice. The Armagnac Mixit uses hazelnut syrup, while the version with Cognac adds jasmine to play up the spirit's floral notes. Brandy Library also offers a variety of brandy-based libations, both classic and modern, which sell for about $15. The Jarnac Ginger mixes Cognac, lime juice, cane syrup and ginger beer; the Sun of Normandy uses Calvados, fresh-pressed orange juice and grenadine; and Mississippi Punch combines Cognac with rum, Bourbon, bitters, lemon and sugar. JUST DESSERTS Most brandy drinkers prefer to sip it as or with dessert, which is where it's often listed on the menu. Hilton locations actively promote brandy, Cognac and Armagnac with their entire dessert menus, and most of it is sold along with dessert. The same goes for 30 locations of The Palm steakhouse, where national director of wine and spirits Angelica Sbai likes to pair the Larressingle VSOP Armagnac with the steakhouse's Big Chocolate Layer Cake, a seven-layer, dark-chocolate cake with chocolate ganache. The Palm offers nine mandated Cognacs and Armagnacs ranging in price from $12 to $84; each location has the flexibility to also serve regional preferences. At Brandy Library, staff suggests a variety of dessert pairings, depending on the spirit. Cognac is positioned as a great partner for delicate macarons and madeleines, while Armagnac goes nicely with chocolate cake, a cheese plate or foie gras. Brandy and its kin can also be enjoyed throughout an entire meal. Jesse Hiney, wine director for the 160-seat American brasserie NoPa in Washington, D.C., likes to pair brandy with rich, fatty meats, as you would a big, tannic red wine. "The food softens the spirit, while the spirit cuts through the richness of The Appeal of Armagnac Like Cognac, Armagnac is a French brandy, distilled from grapes in the Gascony region of the southwestern part of France. Armagnac is the oldest spirit in France, with a long history and tradition. But there are differences between it and its more famous cousin. May Matta-Aliah, president of the New York-based wine education and consulting organization In the Grape, and an Armagnac ambassador, points out that Armagnac is more artisanal than Cognac, and possesses fruitier notes, as opposed to Cognac's floral ones. "Armagnac is a deeply flavorful and rich brandy, with flavors ranging from patisserie to vanilla, plums and butterscotch in the younger blends, to prunes, spice and leather in the older blends," says Matta-Aliah. She believes most who try Armagnac love it. But lack of awareness, coupled with the limited financial resources and advertising budget of the small region, keep Armagnac under the radar, and out of many guests' glasses. "Bold, rustic, manly, obscure, deep, complex, difficult, enchanting, austere, fragrant. It's a love-or-hate relationship," says Flavien Desoblin about Armagnac. A member of the Mousquetaire d'Armagnac and owner of Brandy Library in New York, Desoblin says the lack of marketing power means fewer guests get to sample Armagnac. Brandy Library offers about 90 Armagnacs; it's also featured in cocktails like The Paradox ($15), with Armagnac, orange liqueur and Amarula cream liqueur; and The Musket ($15), with Armagnac, muddled fig, honey and lemon juice. Michael David Murphy, beverage director for the six concepts of Craft Restaurants Ltd., also positions Armagnac as more masculine, with hints of spice, as opposed to Cognac's more feminine, softer palate. Craft's Taste by Niche restaurant in St. Louis serves the Tariquet 12 Year Folle Blanche Armagnac for $12. Blanche was an AOC established in 2005 for unaged Armagnac, and Matta-Aliah says this sector of the category is attracting the most attention. But Armagnac in general is worth seeking out, and a welcome addition to a back bar or restaurant, she says. "It is an artisanal, authentic, historic and hand-crafted product, even today." —KAM OCTOBER 2013 | 27

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