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Evolution of cognac adds fresh dash to hip lifestyle

Stylish man in hat and blue jacket sitting in armchair and drinking whiskey (Photo by lightfieldstudios via 123RF)

Cognac has come a long way since being seen as the drink of choice by old men in smoky rooms.

As the years have gone by, and rappers have largely popularised the drink with mentions in their music, the “water of life” as it is largely referred to in Cognac, the area in France where it originates from, has seen a rebrand as a top lifestyle choice for many who now see their preferred nectar as some what of a status symbol.

The drink’s popularity has grown so much that it has yielded World Cognac Day, on June 4. With the upsurge in its profile, certain luxury cognac houses have introduced lifestyle events as a way of extending the brand’s reach beyond the four walls of popular bars. One such initiative is the Martell Home Live series – alive, interactive talk show platform and experience that celebrates cultural innovators in the music, arts, entertainment industries.

One of the cultural innovators at the helm of the international event is Karim Lateef, senior manager of culture and programming at Pernod Ricard USA. As a man in the know in the drink ’s industry, Lateef gives us the insight on cognac as well as some of the latest trends.

Karim Lateef shares his insight on the drink popularised by rappers.
Karim Lateef shares his insight on the drink popularised by rappers.

What are the top drinks trends that we will be seeing in 2019?

I think one of the more popular trends that will continue to grow is the celebration of local goods and local sourcing. There is an increase in entrepreneurs entering the spirits segment creating small batch mixers, and bar tenders simply sourcing local ingredients .There is also excitement around the use of barrels from other spirits in the cognac ageing phase. Lastly, there is also an increasing number of female consumers entering the cognac segment, becoming influencers and experts in a space traditionally dominated by men.

What are the best ingredients to pair with cognac and what is it about these that make them complement the notes in cognac?

This is subjective and based on personal taste preferences, however, I prefer the spicier cocktails made with ginger because it really balances out the cognac and complements the fruit notes, so I really enjoy cognac mules and apple spiced cider cocktails.

How do you choose your flavours and toppings that add to the experience?

I usually approach mixology by starting with the basics – abase spirit, usually cognac or tequila, a mixer like ginger beer and lime juice, finally a simple syrup or triple sec .I choose my ingredients based on variables such as the seasonality of the cocktail’s ingredients, the occasions (cocktail party vs. sports viewing party), and the audience mix.

Why do you like using cognac in your cocktails?

I like the taste, versatility and overall mixability of cognac as my base spirit. The spirit can be enjoyed neat, in an aromatic cocktail like an old fashioned, a sour cocktail like a Whiskey Sour, or even a simple mix with cola.

To celebrate World Cognac Day, Lateef  shared one of his favourite but easy cocktail recipes:


50 ml Martell VSOP 10 ml lime juice

10 ml sugar syrup

20 mineral water

Lemon peel

Pour Martell VSOP in a punch cup or highball glass over crushed ice, add lemon juice and sugar syrup, and complete with a premium mineral water. Stir well until the glass gets frosted. Garnish with a lemon peel twisted over the drink. 

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