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Pierre Ferrand – 1840 Original Formula – Revival of the Cocktail Cognac

22 June 2011 3 Comments

Nowadays, we think of cognac primarily as something to sip by the fireside after a nice dinner.
Yet back in the nineteenth century, when the art of cocktail as we know it first came together, one thing the both the barkeepers who created it and their eager customers would have all agreed on was that nothing made for a better mixed drink than good cognac.

The works of masters of the art such as Jerry Thomas, who wrote the first bartender’s guide, the great technician Harry Johnson, Leo Engel, who brought American bartending to England, and the wildly-inventive William “The Only William” Schmidt abound in formulae for cognac-based Cocktails, Sours, Punches, Daisies and a dozen other ways to turn or a little of this, a little of that and a lot of ice into a few short sips of liquid delight. Even the mighty Mint Julep, a drink now made almost exclusively with bourbon whiskey, was primarily a cognac drink.
These gents were not using the oldest, rarest cognacs for their drinks. Cognac was an everyday staple of the bar, not something reserved for special occasions. The preferred style was known as “three star,” young enough to be lively (and, of course, affordable) and yet darker and richer in flavor, and higher in proof, than the VS cognacs that represent its modern equivalent. Over the years, this style fell by the wayside along with cognac cocktails in general.

Now, with the renaissance in traditional, craft mixology, its absence is keenly felt.
Pierre Ferrand is therefore proud to present 1840 Original Formula, a revival of the classic three-star cognac. It is not the product of mere guesswork. It was developed by Alexandre Gabriel, the company’s proprietor, and Christian Guerin, its cellar-master, with a little help from the American spirits and cocktail historian David Wondrich, after extensive tasting and evaluation of surviving examples of three-star cognac going back to the early nineteenth century.

The final blend is closely modeled on an impossibly rare and impossibly well-preserved bottle of Pinet-Castillon cognac from the year 1840, a generation and more before the phylloxera louse devastated the vineyards of cognac. Like that venerable cognac, it is fresh and floral, yet with enough darker, tannic notes to keep it from disappearing when mixed into a Cocktail, Punch or Julep. The fact that it is, at 45% alcohol, more concentrated than a standard VS cognac (almost always bottled at 40%) makes it particularly well adapted to the spirit-forward style of cocktail and mixed drink that was in favor before Prohibition.

Although 1840 Original Formula is Pierre Ferrand’s first cognac designed primarily for mixing, if—as we hope—it finds a home in the world’s best bars, it will not be the first Pierre Ferrand product to do so. Pierre Ferrand Ambre, blended from eaux-de-vie averaging ten years old, is already a proven favorite among the world’s most accomplished bartenders, and appears on cocktail lists around the world. As Alexandre Gabriel says, “we at Pierre Ferrand have always been very proud of the extraordinary success our cognacs have enjoyed with the world’s most accomplished bartenders. 1840 Original Formula is our way of giving something back.”

Like all Pierre Ferrand cognacs, 1840 Original Formula is distilled entirely from grapes that are estate-grown in the Grand Champagne, the heart of the cognac region.
But after all the talk, the proof is in the mixing. We’ve included three recipes from the golden age of the Cocktail, curated by Dr. Wondrich. Try them with 1840 Original Formula and we trust you’ll never look at cognac the same way again.

Original Cognac Cocktail
(Adapted from Jerry Thomas, Bar-Tenders’ Guide, 1862)
In a mixing glass, stir ½ teaspoon/3 ml of superfine or caster sugar with 1 teaspoon/5 ml water until sugar has dissolved.
2 oz/60 ml 1840 Original Formula,
1 teaspoon/5 ml orange liqueur, such as Mathilde orange
2-3 dashes aromatic bitters, such as Fee’s Whiskey barrel Bitters or The Bitter Truth
Aromatic Bitters, or Angostura bitters
Fill glass with cracked ice, stir well and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Twist lemon peel over
the top. For an Improved Cognac Cocktail, substitute maraschino liqueur for the orange liqueur
and add a dash (or 3 or 4 drops) of absinthe.
Original Cognac Julep
(Adapted from David Wondrich, Imbibe, 2007)
In a highball glass, stir 2 teaspoons/10 ml superfine or caster sugar together with ½ oz/15 ml
water until sugar has dissolved.
Add 5 or 6 mint leaves (from the bottom of the sprig) and press very lightly with a muddler.
Add 1 ½ oz/45 ml 1840 Original Formula and fill with crushed or finely cracked ice.
Swirl with a barspoon until the outside of the glass frosts.
Add more crushed ice and another 1 oz/30 ml 1840 Original Formula Stir again to frost
the glass.
Garnish with at least 1 sprig of mint, and preferably 3, and add a straw.
Optional (but highly recommended): before inserting the mint and straw float ½ oz/15
ml Plantation Vintage 2000 Jamaican Rum on top by gently pouring it from a jigger over the
back of a barspoon.
Jackson Punch
(Adapted from an 1863 recipe by Jerry Thomas)
Combine in cocktail shaker:
2 oz/60 ml 1840 Original Formula
1 oz/30 ml Plantation Reserve Barbados Rum
¾ oz/ 22 ml fresh-squeezed lemon juice
½ oz/15 ml simple syrup (made with equal parts sugar and water)
½ oz/15 ml raspberry syrup
2 oz/60 ml water
Fill with ice, shake well and strain into tall glass full of fresh ice. Ornament with raspberries and
half an orange wheel cut into 4 pieces and artistically arranged. Add a straw and serve.

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What do you think about this Cognac?
Rating: 10.0/10 (2 votes cast)
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