Cheers to Cognac

Discover the ins and outs of this exceptional French spirit

The Pink Moke. Photo by Gyorgy Papp
The Pink Moke. Photo by Gyorgy Papp

National Cognac Day is celebrated June 4, a date that also traditionally marks the start of Cognac season in France. For a distilled brandy to bear the name Cognac, it must:

• Be made from grapes from one of the six growth areas in Cognac, France: Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies, Fins Bois, Bons Bois, or Bois Ordinaires.

• Only be made from eight grapes. The most popular is Ugni blanc.

Be distilled twice in copper pot stills.

• Be aged for at least two years in French oak barrels from Limousin or Troncais.

Many producers age their Cognac beyond the two-year minimum, resulting in four distinct grades of Cognac that correspond to the age of the youngest brandy in the blend:

• VS (Very Special): Must be aged at least two years.

• VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale): Must be aged at least four years.

• XO (Extra Old): Must be aged at least 10 years.

• XXO or Hors d’âge (Beyond Age): Must be aged at least 14 years.

While XO and XXO are best savored on their own, the more youthful blends (i.e., VS and VSOP) are great in cocktails, such as the French 75, Vieux Carré, or the Sidecar, which comprises just three simple ingredients. The Pink Moke cocktail brightens up the original Sidecar mix with the addition of fresh grapefruit juice.

The Pink Moke 


  • 2 oz. Cognac
  • 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1 oz. orange liqueur (such as Grand Marnier, which is made from Cognac and the distilled essence of bitter orange)
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • Slice of grapefruit and/or rosemary sprig to garnish

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well and double strain into a chilled coupe or snifter glass. Garnish with a grapefruit slice and/or an aromatic rosemary sprig.

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