I write all the time about brandy, and why you should be drinking more of it. It’s like whiskey, but made with grapes. It’s just as smooth, just as mixable, just as interesting, and often a better value.
In America, most of the drinkable brandy we have available is sold as cognac. (Cognac is brandy made in the Cognac region of France and aged for a certain amount of time, denoted by the grading on the bottle.) After reading a recent article by Esquire drinks columnist David Wondrich, I’m reminded that I neglect to mention armagnac, another proprietary French version of brandy. Like cognac, armagnac is another liquor named after the region that produces the spirit. Wondrich compares the difference between cognac and armagnac to that between bourbon and rye, with armagnac comparing to the latter spirit — making it a bit less sweet, a bit more unrefined, and a bit better suited to mixing.
You can use armagnac the next time you’re making a sidecar, a Brandy Crusta, or any other drink that calls for brandy. Here’s another one — a simple cocktail that adds a bracing, minty kick to the sweetness of the brandy. Here’s a drink that’s in-season, even after the holidays. A stinger can help take the sting out of the cold you’ll feel from spending any amount of time outside.
Creme de menthe comes in white (clear) and green varieties — both taste the same, and if you have either, feel free to use it, but the clear version will preserve the rich color of the armagnac.
We’re giving you two options to serve this drink — either up, chilled and strained, or stirred over the rocks. If you’re reading this in the summer, and you’ve got mint in your garden, feel free to use a sprig or two as a garnish, but otherwise, there’s no need; I realize that mint is available year-round at the supermarket these days, but you don’t need to pick any up for this. Traditionally, bartenders only used garnishes that were seasonably available; I see no reason for you to do any differently.
- 2 oz. brandy, cognac, or armagnac
- .75 oz. creme de menthe
Stir over ice, strain, and serve. Alternately, this drink could be served over ice; either way, a mint garnish would be nice, but not necessary. (Any leftover candy canes from your Christmas tree would work just as well.)