While cognac has a reputation that precedes it, France's other famous brandy, Armagnac, seems to go largely unrecognized here in the States, though it's technically the elder statesman of the category (it's been produced steadily since 1422). If you've found yourself unable to kick back with a snifter of Courvoisier without feeling an ambient sense of irony, Armagnac is your best bet for indulging in the gravity, mystery, and rich flavor profile of a world famous eaux de vie.

Armagnac's basics are similar to cognac's -- it begins with white wine grapes grown in southwest France -- though it is distilled just once, versus cognac's double-distillation, before it begins to the aging process.
Like other fine brandies, Armagnac is traditionally enjoyed on its own, in a snifter or other tulip-shaped glass that highlights the spirit's aromatics, but a few top mixologists are beginning to advocate for its use in cocktails. Mayur Subbarao, of New York's Mayahuel and Dram, suggests honoring Armagnac's stunningly complex contours with these sophisticated twists.

The Paris-Midi


1 oz Laubade VSOP Armagnac
1 oz Lillet Blonde
1 barspoon each lemon juice, orange curacao, maraschino

Combine ingredients in chilled mixing glass with cracked ice. Stir, strain into chilled cocktail glass, add lemon twist.

Fleur de Miel

1.5 oz Marie Duffau Hors d'Age Armagnac
0.75 oz Cream sherry or Noilly Prat ambre vermouth
0.25 oz Benedictine
1 barspoon honey syrup (1:1 honey:water)
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters

Combine ingredients in chilled mixing glass with cracked ice. Stir, strain into chilled cocktail glass, add lemon twist.

A la Recherché de Gascogne

1.5 oz Armagnac
1 barspoon Mezcal or scotch whisky
1 barspoon Cherry Rouge
1/2 barspoon Absinthe

Combine ingredients in chilled mixing glass with cracked ice. Stir, strain into chilled cocktail glass, add lemon twist.