Above: Sharing a Very Special moment with Matthias Lataille
Pardon us for blowing our own trumpet but we do believe our Very Special Night in association with Martell Cognac is worth a toot or two. Put it this way, it certainly lived up to its name. This wasn’t any old Friday evening soiree, it was a special Friday evening soiree, one we were honoured to host to celebrate the 300th Anniversary of Martell, the oldest of the great cognac houses.
Like all evenings of note the setting played an essential role in the proceedings. And the Marx Room in historic Quo Vadis (once home to Karl Marx no less), was just the ticket. Posh enough to warrant dressing up for yet relaxed enough for our guests to feel at ease, it worked like a charm for creating exactly the right mood for the event.
Speaking of moods, we were mindful of the fact that most of our guests would be arriving straight from work so we wanted their spirits to be lifted as soon as they arrived. What better way to get the party started than with a perfectly balanced Classic Champagne Cocktail? One measure of Martell VS, a sugar cube, and a few dashes of bitters, topped up with Mumm Champagne et voila! you’ve got sophistication in a glass. Oh-so simple to create but ever-so delightful to taste – it’s the ideal cocktail to showcase the flirty, fruity, floral notes of Martell VS.
Our readers certainly thought so. Some were cognac fans before they arrived, others were newbies to the category but by the end everyone in the room was united in their appreciation for Martell and blown away by its versatility. The live French jazz from the Canini Trio and the delicious canapés throughout the evening certainly helped to set the scene but largely it was down to the tutored tastings from Martell’s resident Cognac expert Matthias Lataille who brought two expressions of Martell Cognac to life. (And we’d like to think the two luscious cocktails we created specially for the evening had an impact as well.)
Martell, the star of the show
That said, who could fail to be even the teensiest bit smitten with the taste of Martell? Since 1715, Jean Martell’s vision to create the perfect cognac has held true. Using only grapes from the finest growing areas of Charentes, Petit Champagne, Grand Champagne and Fin Bois, its distinct character comes from the cognac sourced from the smallest vineyard region, Borderies. These grapes are the key to its fruity characteristics and affable personality – add together subtle spice notes and hints of oak and almond you’ve unlocked the secret to Martell VS’ success.
For the 300th Anniversary though Martell have pulled something extremely special out of the bag – ladies and gentlemen, allow us to introduce you to Martell Cordon Bleu – A Tribute to Martell’s 300th Anniversary. Here Cellar Master Benoît Fil has worked his magic creating a unique blend combining more than 100 eaux-de-vie from the select growing regions. The House style is there but the volume is amplified to release a rich, bold, unapologetic expression, bursting with roasted coffee and almonds, and fragrant orchard fruits, mixed with candied orange, cinnamon and honied tones. This elegant, complex and well-balanced cognac is down to the ageing process: the blend has been rested in barrels crafted from a 300-year old oak tree.
Then there’s the bottle, a thing of absolute beauty designed to replicate the packaging of the very first Cordon Bleu created in 1912. For our tasting, Matthias paired Martell Cordon Bleu with a selection of Ladurée macarons – Violet and Blackcurrant, Vanilla, Coffee and Gingerbread – each carefully chosen to complement the notes in this very special cognac.
While Martell Cordon Bleu was conceived to be drunk neat, on the rocks or opened up with a splash of water, its sibling VS is very much suited to mixing up in cocktails. We created two very different styles for our special night. Find the recipes below:
The Ms VSpecial
Inspired by the Martell VS Serve (VS, water and orange zest), this drink blends sweet orange aromas and flavours. Triple Sec keeps the French vibe going along with a simple homemade orange syrup. Soda opens up the flavours and adds an effervescence (for extra luxury substitute soda for Champagne). The edible gold leaf gives it a lovely sexy, celebratory feel.
40ml Martell VS
10ml Triple Sec
20ml lemon juice
20ml orange sugar syrup*
1/2 egg white
Dash soda water
Orange zest garnish
Edible gold leaf (optional)
Shake the Martell VS, Triple Sec, lemon juice, orange sugar syrup and egg white and ice and double strain into a chilled Martini glass. Add a dash of soda water. Spritz the orange peel over glass and discard. Sprinkle with a little edible gold leaf for special occasions.
*To make orange sugar syrup, simmer 50ml water, 50ml part sugar, 50ml orange zest and 20ml freshly-squeezed orange juice.
The Mr G A de V
Inspired by the Art de Vivre which Martell celebrates. The Art of Living is about enjoying the beauty and pleasures of life: a sunset, a good food and exquisite cognac. Quality coffee and chocolate are such pleasures and work well with a fine cognac. The recipe also takes inspiration from the classic Espresso Martini. Easy to make, with a luxurious feel to round off an evening.
40ml Martell VS
20ml freshly brewed filter coffee
20ml sugar syrup
Chocolate garnish (at least 70% cocoa)
Shake the Martell VS, coffee and sugar syrup with ice and strain into a chilled Martini glass. Sprinkle liberally with finely grated chocolate.
And if you want to keep things classic…
Classic Champagne Cocktail
One of the oldest cocktails, dating back to at least the mid-1800’s. The first written mention is found in 1855 in New York. The Classic Champagne Cocktail pre-dates the first cocktail book published in 1862. The elegant Martell VS Cognac, with its youthful and lively notes of apple and pear, makes the perfect base for a well-balanced and refined Classic Champagne Cocktail.
25ml Martell VS
1 sugar cube
2-3 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters
Top up with G.H Mumm Cordon Rouge Champagne
Soak the sugar cube with Angostura bitters and drop into a Champagne flute. Add Martell cognac and top up with Champagne.
Know your cognac
In these days of anti-ageing this and anti-ageing that, it’s a relief to embrace something where the gift of time is actually beautiful. As far as cognac is concerned, ageing is essential. Only after an eau-de-vie has been allowed to reap the rewards of time spent resting in the wood of oak barrels holding between 270 to 450 litres of spirit can it be sold as a bona fide cognac.
Worth noting, like Champagne, only certain regions in France can produce the plump, juicy white grapes that go to make cognac. These growing areas are found in the Charente region located at the north of the Aquitaine basin and consist of Grand Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies, Fin Bois, Bon Bois and Bois Ordinaires. The House of Martell is even more selective though, only using grapes from the crème de la crème of growing areas taking in Borderies, Petit Champagne, Grande Champagne and Fins Bois.
The Cognac growing region
What is eau de vie?
An eau de vie (plural, eaux de vie — also spelled eau-de-vie and eaux-de-vie) is a clear, colourless fruit brandy that is produced by means of fermentation and double distillation. The fruit flavour is typically very light.
What is VS?
That’s easy, those two simple letters have a big meaning, they stand for ‘Very Special’ (just think of the elegant style of Martell VS). It also means that the youngest eau-de-vie in the blend is at least two years old.
Also worth knowing:
Very Superior Old Pale – Indicates the youngest eau-de-vie in the blend is at least four years old.
Extra Old – Cognacs whose youngest eau-de-view is at least six years old.
The rare process of producing cognacs made with eaux-de-vie from a single harvest. The year of the harvest is specified on the label.