Forever Amber…

While the best cognacs have long been an object of desire for a true connoisseur, a new breed of cocktails with cognac roots have brought its inherent luxury and romance to a wider audience.  The complexity of flavors and fluid body that make a good cognac a pleasure neat or on the rocks can also make it the perfect foundation for a mixed drink. 

David Fera, Managing partner of Il Fornaio Restaurant at the elegantly renovated Saint Claire Hotel in San Jose is particularly proud of their signature Chocolate Martini, distinguished with Navan Vanilla Cognac and a glass kissed with chocolate. “Our Chocolate Martini is very different because we use the Navan vanilla-infused cognac, which is something that you can’t find just anywhere,” notes Fera. “When you make it a principle ingredient in a chocolate martini, the combination makes for an experience that is memorable.  Though the relative newness of Navan at our bar may make some clients a little skeptical at first, once they experience Navan in the chocolate martini they love it.  That, in addition to the chocolate swirled around the martini glass, makes for a wonderful presentation.” 


David Fera, Managing partner of Il Fornaio Restaurant at the elegantly renovated Saint Claire Hotel in San Jose shows off the signature Chocolate Martini, highlighted with Navan Vanilla Cognac and a glass kissed with Ghiradelli Chocolate.

Il Fornaio’s Chocolate Martini unites 3/4 oz Navan Vanilla Infused Cognac, 3/4 oz Godiva Chocolate Liqueur, 1 oz cream and the all-important martini glass swirled with Ghiradelli Chocolate Syrup.  A half-hour south of San Jose, CordeValle’s house bar also has introduced NAVAN Vanilla Cognac with great style via their original CordeValle Yellow Taxi Cab, which is fueled by a couple of ounces of Navan, fresh lime juice, fresh pineapple juice, shaken and strained, and poured into a martini glass served with a lime garnish.

In nearby Los Gatos, meanwhile, The Toll House Hotel offers locals and visitors a wonderful and heady blend of sophistication, hominess and contemporary style.  This extends to the property’s restaurant, Three Degrees, which offers a crisp mix of homespun appeal and contemporary chic.  One thing that exemplifies this is Toll House’s Buenos Dias Coffee amped up with a touch of Remy Martin V.S.O.P. Cognac. To say hello to this warm, fall-perfect delight assemble together 1-1/2 oz of Jose Cuervo Tequila, 1 1/2 oz of Patron XO Liqueur, 1 1/2 oz coffee, a generous float of Remy Martin VSOP and two shots of whipped cream.  Mix tequila, XO liqueur, whipped cream and coffee into a shaker with some crushed red pepper. Pour into a glass coffee mug, garnish with the whipped cream, then float the Remy Martin V.S.O.P. and top with red and chili pepper flakes.

“I love the smooth taste of the Remy Martin cognac, especially with the way it harmoniously blends with the coffee as well as the pepper flavors,” says Gemma Chamielesski, Three Degrees’ Bartender/Mixologist. “Though we introduced this drink at our Mother’s Day Brunch earlier this year, it is the perfect drink for fall. The warmth of the combination of the cognac, tequila, coffee and pepper makes for an overall flavor that is sharp and then silky.

At Three Degrees Restaurant inside the Toll House in San Jose, Gemma Chamielesski warms up the hearts of guests with her perfect-for-Fall Buenos Dias Coffee amped up with a touch of Remy Martin V.S.O.P. Cognac and Jose Cuervo tequila.

The Sidecar may be a classic cocktail that has been poured for decades, but Danny Smalls, General Manager at The Lodge in Beverly Hills, has a fresh way of seeing it. “I think of it as a ‘Brandy Margarita,’ but replacing Tequila with a top-shelf cognac,” he says. “And with that in mind, we like to do our Sidecar with a modern twist by taking Remy V.S.O.P., fresh lime juice we squeeze daily and Cointreau.  Though I like the smooth, balanced taste of Remy V.S.O.P., we know our customers have their favorites, so we can also make it with Courvoisier, Martel V.S. or Hennessy.”

According to Dan Small, a variety of fine cognacs are available for inclusion in The Lodge’s fresh twist on The Sidecar.  However, Small personally recommends Remy VSOP.

Down the road in West Hollywood, meanwhile, Australian-born Damian Windsor of West Hollywood’s red hot Bin 8945 (the subject of one of our “Hot Property” features, in fact) makes prospects even hotter with his Brandy Crusta cocktail, made with 1.5 oz. of Hennessy VS, a half ounce each of maraschino liqueur and triple sec, juices of half a lemon and half and orange, a dash of Angostura Bitters and a maraschino cherry to lighten up the maraschino liqueur in a festive sugar-rimmed glass.  “Hennessy VS is my choice for this because of its consistency and the fact that it isn’t too sweet,” says Windsor during particularly lively and busy night. “The mix of juices and the addition of the cherry not only adds dimension to the classic, but makes it a great year-round cocktail.”


Bin 8945’s Damian Windsor updates his Hennessy VS-based Brandy Crusta with a little extra cherry, a cool glass and a lot of imagination.


Cognac Continental

Cognacs that have become beloved the world over…or deserve to be.

Courvoisier:  With Beam Global Wine & Spirits as Courvoisier’s U.S. parent company, the brand is enjoying an international reputation for producing the finest Cognacs for centuries. Among the top of this line is VSOP Exclusif, which has a younger, more contemporary feel and is designed to be mixed, and
Napoleon Fine Champagne, created at the beginning of the 20th century to celebrate the relationships between the Courvoisier family and those of Napoleon the first and the third.  Courvoisier is also the only Cognac to be awarded France’s highest award for excellence, the Prestige de la France.

Hennessy VS:  Established in Cognac, France by Richard Hennessy in 1765, the brand now enters the 21st century with Hennessy V.S., a blend of fine cognacs, aged to full maturity in oak barrels.  Still operated by the Hennessy family in the same town, this internationally popular cognac is aged for at least 2-5 years. In terms of flavor and body, Hennessy VS is defined by a full bodied with a pronounced aroma of oak and hazelnuts, a rich floral taste with tones of red berries and vanilla.

Martel V.S.: Founded in 1715 by Jean Martel, it evolved into the leading cognac producer in the period of the French Revolution. The 19th century saw expansion as a result of marriages. After 250 years as a private company, Martel went public in 1975, and currently is owned by Seagram.  Martel V.S. is a superb companion mixer with tonic, ginger, and just about anything else the cocktail requires. It is also just as delicious on its own.

Navan Vanilla Cognac: This delectable cognac from the House of Grand Marnier integrates rare and luxurious natural black Madagascar vanilla (the second most expensive spice after saffron) into fine cognac. It is the ideal foundation for rich cocktails that fit the “desert in a glass” category.

Remy Martin V.S.O.P.: As Mme Dominique Hériard Dubreuil, the chairman of Rémy Martin, says, "Taste is at the heart of everything we do." And true to form, the rich and versatile Remy Martin VSOP lives up to high standards that have been in place since its inception nearly 300 years ago. What makes it a versatile cognac?  A first nose of vanilla, oak, rose, violet and apricot followed by secondary notes of light port, intense florals, hazelnut and licorice.




The fine French Cognac Touched by Vanilla has an impressive holiday gift pack


A beautiful new holiday gift pack from Navan, the fine French Cognac Touched by Vanilla, can now be seen in retail stores around the country. Two elegant snifter glasses in a reusable clear carrying case tastefully emblazoned with the elegant Navan logo, will make a “clearly impactful” presentation as a floor display.




This dramatic Navan holiday pack features high density plastic, pearlescent white, a gold base and a built-in handle, making it as distinctive as the product itself.

 Navan is a combination of rare French cognac and natural vanilla from Madagascar and achieves a delicate balance between the multi-layered and complex elements of rare cognac and the powerful yet smooth spice notes of natural vanilla. Navan takes its name from Navana, a small town on the eastern coast of Madagascar, where the finest natural vanilla in the world is found. Here, the delicate vanilla orchid plant grows, one of 35,000 varieties that found in select areas of the globe. Once the orchids are pollinated it takes 18 months for the yellow-white flowers to bloom, followed by their maturation into slender beans or pods. Each vanilla orchid blossoms only one day a year, and only for several hours.One sip of Navan, straight up, on the rocks, or in a cocktail is a unique experience, taking us to “The Other Side of Cognac.”

Navan is imported exclusively in the United States by Moet Hennessy USA. (Pacific Wine & Spirits in CA)

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