Saturday, September 5, 2009
I'll admit that I had been confused about the relationship between brandy, cognac, and armagnac until very recently (like about 20 minutes ago). Looking for brandy in the local liquor stores, bottles I thought were brandy (like Hennessey or Courvoisier) said "cognac" on the bottle. It was actually tough to find just plain "brandy" that wasn't a fruit flavor (like blackberry). Turns out the relationship is pretty easy to understand. Brandy is distilled from wine (grapes) or other fruits. Cognac, from the Cognac region in France, is distilled from white wine and aged in oak barrels made from timber from the Limousin or Troncais forests in France. Armagnac differs from cognac in the distillation process, as well as the type of wood the aging barrels are made of (black oak from the Monzelun forest), but it is also distilled from white wine. So Cognac and Armagnac are specialized styles of brandy with very strict production criteria.
Given that, rather than searching around for just "brandy" for this cocktail, I chose to use a cognac - specifically a Kelt V.S.O.P. (Very Superior Old Pale) champagne cognac. Kelt actually puts their cognac barrels on a ship and sends them on a three month sea voyage (Tour du Monde) which is supposed to increase the complexity of the spirit. The subtleties of the cognac are probably lost adding it to heavy cream and creme de cacao, but using the Kelt also makes sense since it's what I had on hand.
This is not a drink to start your evening off - this is a drink to elegantly and sweetly wrap up a long day, sipped by a fire, or while wrapped in a warm Snuggie (or Slanket, if you're one of THOSE types of people). It's creamy yet not thick, with a not-quite-sweet finish, the nutmeg adding a bit of that chilly fall evening feel to it. This cocktail is an ideal nightcap.