Cognac is a variety of brandy which must be produced and distilled in the French region of Cognac, and under specific, traditional techniques. Among other regulations, cognac must be made from grapes grown in designated growing regions in France, distilled twice in copper pot stills, and aged at least two years in French oak barrels from specified regions in France. Brandies made elsewhere may not be called cognac, even if they are made using identical methods.
The 18th century saw the founding of famous Cognac houses, such as: Martell (founded by Jean Martell in 1715), Rémy Martin (founded in 1724), and Hennessy (founded by Richard Hennessy in 1765). Depending on the cognac, flavors can be sweet, spicy, fruity and bitter. Cognac has a luxury reputation, and purists will generally consume it neat and at room temperature, perhaps adding a drop or two of water to expand the spirit’s aromas and flavors. However, many people have begun to embrace modern ways of drinking cognac, such as in cocktails with high quality mixers, or mixed with ginger ale or tonic water.