The Roffignac Cocktail
Gary Regan, sans The Professor today, contributes an article to the San Francisco Chronicle with some authentic pointers for that most French of spirits.
Americans tend to sip their Cognac neat, at room temperature, or warmed slightly by cupping the glass in the palm of the hand. It’s an elegant postprandial potion.
And those with a passion for classic cocktails take their Cognac with Cointreau and fresh lemon juice in the form of a sidecar, one of the world’s most sophisticated mixed drinks.
In France, though, where style is always the name of the game, those in the know drink their Cognac over ice in tall, slender glasses, mixed with all manner of juices and sodas. Are we missing out on something? You’d better believe we are.
On a recent trip through the Cognac region of France, I visited most of the major Cognac houses and expected to be told that nothing should be added to the treasured elixir lest it become contaminated beyond recognition. I was gravely mistaken. I was treated to Cognac mixed with tonic water, ginger ale, club soda and even cranberry juice. The fact is that Cognac has so much character and flavor that it holds its own no matter what you add to it.
How about an old, old New Orleans classic?
2 ounces Cognac.
1 ounce raspberry syrup.
Soda water or seltzer
Fill a highball glass with ice. Add the first two ingredients, then top off with soda or seltzer. Swizzle and serve.
Count Louis Philippe Joseph de Roffignac was Mayor of New Orleans from 1820 to 1828, and was famous and beloved for, among other things, introducing street lighting to the city and laying the first cobblestones in the French Quarter. He also lent his name to this favorite concoction, sort of an early 19th Century highball.
According to printed recipes the original sweetening agent for this drink in New Orleans at the time was something called “Red Hembarig.” I hadn’t the slightest idea what this was, but when it was pointed out that the German word for raspberry is Himbeere, many agreed that it was probably a misspelling of a German variety of raspberry syrup that was used.
I’ll still use my VS or even VSOP for drinks like this, but for that $60-per-bottle Pierre Ferrand 20-year-old stuff … well, I still like sippin’ that stuff neat.