Grand Marnier, Cognac, and more
Today we’re taking a closer look at some lesser known alcoholic beverages and the history behind them.
A liqueur produced by French monks is Chartreuse. First developed in 1605 by the Carthusian Order, the secret recipe is thought to contain 135 natural
herbs and other ingredients.
During the French Revolution the monks were evicted and banned from making their popular drink. Due to this they moved to Spain where they continued
manufacturing Chartreuse. The French government, realizing the popularity of the liqueur, began production of a similar drink and tried to market it.
However, the venture was not a success and in 1931 the government allowed the Order to resume making the liqueur in Grenoble.
Production of Chartreuse increased markedly in the 1830s and 1840s when it was used effectively as a tonic in the cholera epidemic of 1832. The original
version is green in color with an alcohol strength of 55%. In 1838 Brother Bruno Jacquet made a yellow version that was sweeter and has an alcohol strength
Oscar Wilde used to tell the story of visiting the monastery and being struck by the look of serene happiness on the faces of the monks. When he enquired
as to the reason his guides reply was "One third green, two thirds yellow".
Originally the generic French name for after-dinner liqueurs that accompanied coffee. Now used to describe cocktails made from multiple liqueurs that are
'layered' - one on top of the other in a special slim glass of about 80 to 110 ml. (3 to 4 oz.) capacity.
The layering is accomplished by slowly pouring the ingredients into the glass over the back of a teaspoon to eliminate the ingredients mixing. Strictly
speaking, it's important to add the ingredients in the specified order of the recipe. This is because the best results are obtained by adding the
ingredient with the heaviest density first and then ingredients with progressively lighter densities later, so they effectively 'float' on top of one
another. Layering is sometimes called Floating - now you know the reason.
The general order of ingredients is syrups first, as they are usually the heaviest, followed by any liqueur ingredients, and finally any spirits.
The origins of Grand Marnier go back to 1880 when it was first developed in France. It can be described as a Curacao style of liqueur. It has a Cognac base
with the characteristic orange flavor.
Beautiful as a drink by itself. It can also be used as an ingredient in cocktails, such as Bartender, B-52 and Sweet Lady Jane. Coffee Grand Marnier is
equal parts of Grand Marnier and Kahlua.
Cognac is a Brandy. However, for a Brandy to be classed as Cognac it must come from the Cognac region of France and be made from specific grape varieties.
Good Cognac has a golden color: not too pale nor too dark. It is also smooth on the palate. Poor Cognacs have too weak or too sharp an aroma and taste. The
classification 'Fine Champagne' on a Cognac label indicates that the Cognac originated from Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne.
Cognac is usually drunk from a 'balloon' shaped glass, sometimes called a 'snifter'. The shape helps keep the aroma of the Cognac within the glass making
it easier to obtain the aroma as you drink. This is enhanced if the glass is slightly warmed. Hence the name 'snifter'.
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