As winter approaches, the sky fades unerringly to translucent powder blue and the vineyards of Gascony snuggle into well-earned hibernation under blankets of wispy morning mists. Thoughts in Armagnac now turn to distillation; a joyous period of renewal and creation, the dichotomy of tradition and invention…
Tradition comes from the knowledge that, in much the same fashion as today, the annual distillation of Armagnac has already been undertaken more than 700 times over the centuries, and invention from the craft producers who look to appeal to their present and future markets with new vintages and expressions and seductive cocktail recipes.
Cocktails are relatively recent to the world of Armagnac yet have enjoyed stratospheric growth since the advent of the home-cocktail market in the last four years and the ensuing strong demand in cocktail bars and upmarket venues. That said, the Baron de Sigognac has been an innovator of all things cocktail for the last 50 years or so, creating such luscious expressions as La Blanche, La Blanche au Citron and the multi award-winning La Grande Josiane (Armagnac-Orange liqueur), and continues to grow his recipe collection in collaboration with his partners around the world.
Flavour profiles aside, much of the huge appeal of Armagnac, to both skilled barmen and inveterate home-cocktailers alike, is that with just two products, one can replace virtually all other spirits:
La Blanche (unaged white eau-de-vie) happily takes the place of gin, vodka or even tequila, whilst a young, fruity Armagnac VS or VSOP, fulfills the same role with whisky, cognac and rum. The organoleptic qualities are sufficiently adaptable to do this with great aplomb and the resulting savings on the pocket are equally a welcome bonus in these trying times.
Thus, all of your classic favourites are eminently mixable with an Armagnac base and you can happily sip away, secure in the knowledge that, in the case of Baron de Sigognac at least, you are imbibing a natural, craft product direct from a small-batch distiller. An Old Fashioned, Tom Collins, Sidecar, Sunrise or Mojito take on wonderful, complex depth when shaken with Armagnac; a Smash, Stinger or Sour positively zing with zesty pizzazz.
The gamut of new cocktails and permutations is virtually endless and does not need to be particularly complicated to begin with. Le Baron Dry, for example, is a wonderfully warming long drink of VS Signature, plenty of ice, ginger ale topping and a twist of lime – fabulous! The Royal Josiane, an even more simple construction, comprises La Grande Josiane, a decent bottle of bubbles and a champagne flute; an appetising aperitif, a mouth-watering meal match or post-prandial pep-up.
The Baron’s inventiveness is vast and the adaptability of Armagnac to the cocktail scene has made for many a happy afternoon (and evening!), secreted away in the tasting cellars at Château de Bordeneuve, practising the arcane art of mixology.
Many of The Baron’s clients are just as au fait with the growing demand for new cocktail creations:
Exquisite Elixir, for example, which opened the first specifically French Armagnac Bar in Asia, has in-house mixologists who regale the in-crowds of Bangkok & Singapore with evermore exotic creations such as The Bleeding Heart, Blood Sucker and Succubus jockey for position with Cupid’s Arrow, First Love or Sugar Daddy, whist the provocative One Night Stand is always a very popular option.
The Baron has grouped all of these, and more, into a collection of cocktail recipes. If you would like to try your hand at these delicious Armagnac concoctions, simply drop me a line at [email protected].
As the end of year festivities approach, now is the time to get in a little practice (what a rotten job!), so that you can bewitch your invited guests with a panoply of spell-binding cocktail options, all using just two bottles for the principal ingredient.
Of course, should there be any left in the bottles, the major bonus at this time of year is that Armagnac, along with its expressions, is a perfect support for macerating your dried fruits, flambéing your meats and seafood, seducing your stuffings and sauces, or heavy-handedly tippling into your cake batters… and why not mix yourself a Chef’s Perk Armagnac cocktail whilst you are at it?