In December, nothing says it is holiday time like a good whisky or cognac. If you are hosting a party, you should have started preparing to quench the thirst of friends and family over a jolly good dinner, lunch or brunch.
But why not elevate the drinking, especially if you want to give your guests different rather than normal.
Set the table with an assortment of snacks from caramel chocolate, Brazilian nuts, almonds, whole meal bread, honey, ginger biscuits, apple slices, cheese, vanilla sticks and let the guest enjoy it with cognac. This is delicious way to indulge.
It is about the visitors picking up hints of individual flavours in the cognac and blending it with the taste and smell of spices and different snacks.
At Capital Club in Nairobi last week, Mohsine Korich, the Executive Chef set a table with bottles of Rémy Martin XO and chocolate truffles, Parmesan cheese, dried apricots and figs, pistachio cake, walnuts, spices and fruits as well as an array of jasmine, iris and rose flowers. Guests were encouraged to sample and taste these aromas.
“It is about sharing the experience of drinking cognac. Every single ingredient on the table reflects in the taste and smell of Rémy Martin XO. Pick a vanilla pod, for instance, take a whiff, think about the smell then go back to sipping the cognac, the ingredients create a harmony,” said the chef.
Cognac has a silky-smooth taste especially if paired with caramel chocolate. It has a 'homey' taste if it eaten with a piece of bread and a slice of Parmesan cheese.
Mickael Bonnamy, the East Africa brand activator of Rémy Cointreau said through such rare experiences, cognac lovers and newbies get to know how macaroon and cheese, for instance, tastes with Rémy.
So how do you serve the cognac? Mr Bonnamy says if it is Rémy VSOP, you can serve it on the rocks or neat. But flooding it with ice-cubes is not wise if you want to savour the taste.
Depending on how sweet you want it, you can try cognac and tonic or cognac and ginger ale. However, Rémy XO is an exceptional drink and according to the brand activator, it is better to drink it neat and a 750ml-bottle can be comfortably shared among four guests. What makes XO exceptional is how it is made; it is a blend of different cognacs.
“To make cognac, the grapes are fermented to make white wine. The white wine is then distilled twice into a clear liquid called eau de vie that means water of life. The eau de vie is put in French oak barrels and aged. The ageing process gives the cognac the amazing mahogany colour which comes from the oak wood. For XO, it can have a collection of 400 eaux de vie blended together and some of which have been aged for up to 48 years. In your Rémy XO bottle, the youngest eau de vie maybe 20 years old,” said Mr Bonnamy.
For Christmas, if you are looking for a fine cognac gift, Mr Bonnamy recommends the XO for special friends and family (fathers, fathers-in-law and brothers) and VSOP for others.
“You can start with a VSOP which costs Sh6,250 or if it's a very special person, gift them XO which goes for Sh21,000,” he said.
But for a real show-stopper, gift them the Rémy XVII which is about Sh300,000 a bottle. The glass or snifter you will serve the cognac in also matters; a balloon glass offers the best tasting experience.
Once opened, cognac is not as fragile as wine, said Mr Bonnamy.
You can store it for a long time, but do not keep it in the kitchen. One cognac lover said “you can keep it as long as you can keep your wife” but why let an opened cognac bottle last for years! It is the holiday season.