Cocktail Spotlight - Cognac Old-Fashioned Cocktail The Proper Way for "National Cognac Day"

Renowned mixologist, Jeffrey Morgenthaler, from Clyde Common in Portland, trained his staff by the original ‘1806 Hudson Balance’ method. The latter was named after the newspaper that defined the idea of the “Cocktail” being a mix of sugar, bitters, and spirit with a few teardrops of water.

He tells a story about a woman walking up to his bar and ordering a 'Brandy Old Fashioned'. The bartender made the 1806 style (rye whiskey, club soda, and cherry). Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the look of disgust on the woman’s face as she looked down at a drink that was clearly not what she had ordered. It donned on him at this point that the ‘1806 Hudson Balance’ style and the ‘Brandy Old Fashioned’ are two entirely different cocktails.

This is true! In 1806, people would ask for a cocktail “in the old fashioned way…” meaning nothing too fancy, simply bitters, sugar, and spirit. By considering both versions, Morgenthaler allows a term for people to get the Old Fashioned the way they want it in the other school of thought.

The recipe below is my version of the brandy/cognac old-fashioned that I have come to love. Try to use at least a VSOP aged-cognac, like Drouet VSOP Single Estate Cognac below with ratings). This is a classy drink that deserves the ultimate respect. Variations given in the recipe for bitters. To properly enjoy this classic elixir, please do not use a cherry, especially with cognac, and soda water and use a sugar cube for reasons given below.


Drouet Cognac Old-Fashioned

(photo courtesy of Bourbon & Boots, recipe courtesy of Michael Nagy)


  • 2.5 oz Drouet VSOP Single Estate Small Batch Cognac
  • 1 sugar cube (Demarara sugar is fine, but the sugar cube is best because it better brings out the oils in the orange peel)
  • 2-3 dashes Angostura Bitters or 2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters (for more floral and aromatic component - just use 2 dashes)
  • Wide orange peel for garnish
  • 1 barspoon of water
  • 1 large chunk of ice


Note - The original Old-Fashioned does not contain soda water. In Wisconsin, folks ask for their old-fashioneds either sweet (top with lemon-lime soda) or sour (topped with Sour). Although, this is not the proper way of enjoying it.

In a mixing glass, add the sugar cubes first, then the water, then the bitters. Lightly muddle and use a bar spoon to stir the ingredients into a syrup. Add Cognac. Stir vigorously without ice until sugar begins to dissolve. Add ice and stir for 20-30 seconds. Put a nice large chunk of ice into an old fashioned glass or large rocks glass, and strain the cocktail over it. Garnish with wide orange peel by rubbing the entire rim of the glass and twisting over the glass (give it a good twist). Place the peel on top of the ice and slide along the side submerged into liquid.



Ultimate Spirits Challenge 2015,         94 POINTS

Difford’s Guide 2014,                 4.5/5 STARS

Beverage Tasting Institute 2014,             90 POINTS
“EXCEPTIONAL”                                 GOLD MEDAL



NOSE: Crisp apple, vanilla, brown spices and cinnamon.

PALATE: Gorgeous balance between freshness of fruit and sweet scented notes.

FINISH: Remarkably long finish with great balance between bright acidity and sweetness.

COMMENTS: Beautifully matured to perfection Velvet, drink it on the rocks as an aperitif, or nightcap.

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