The Cognac Cocktail

Early cocktails in the 1800s were mostly based on a simple formula: a base spirit, a sweetener, a sour and bitters. The old fashioned (simply just an “old fashioned whiskey cocktail”) and its many cousins are riffs on this simple recipe. If you found yourself in a saloon in the 1880s, you could order a “fancy Cognac cocktail” and get something closely approximating this. The “fancy” bit was due to the lemon garnish.

We went with Merlet VSOP cognac because it has a rich underlying fruitiness and a lot of heavy vanilla and cocoa undertones. The cognac is aged for four years in oak and for $59, makes one of the better cognac choices for cocktails. Instead of simple or a sugar cube, we used one of our more favorite hacks and went with curacao in place of simple (another good swap is Domaine de Canton for a ginger kick).


  • 2 oz Cognac (Merlet)
  • .5 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao (alternatively, we have made this with Domaine de Canton, which is also delicious)
  • 2 dashes Creole Bitters
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters


Old fashioned glass


  • Add all ingredients to glass with large rock of ice
  • Stir well for at least 30 seconds
  • Serve with lemon twist

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