Dispatch From Louis Royer's Show Me the Proof Cocktail Competition
Cognac has long been thought of as a spirit for sipping neat, but it seems that big brands are trying to change the public’s perception of the French brandy. The proof is in the punch. Monday, November 2nd marked Louis Royer’s “Show Me The Proof” event, a cocktail competition held at Porchlight that featured their Force 53 overproof VSOP Cognac. The contestants included bartenders from NYC (and one Dallas!) hotspots like Holiday Cocktail Lounge, The Dead Rabbit, and Seamstress, to name a few. The judges were comprised of an equally impressive bunch, including cocktail king Dale DeGroff and the son of Louis Royer’s master selector, Nicolas Royer.
The general theme I noticed with the cocktails was intensity, no doubt in part due to the fact that Force 53 is 106 and a bit hot and sweet, but also because of the accompanying ingredients the bartenders chose for their cocktails. Take “An Isle Away” by Kirsten Holloway of Dallas’s Pink Magnolia: In addition to the Force 53, the drink called on Amaro Nonino, simple syrup, Scrappy’s Cardamom Bitters, and Fee Brothers West Indian Orange Bitters. That’s a lot of fragrance in one cocktail! The combination of cardamom and orange bitters made the drink rather like a spiked citrus Chai latte, intriguing and enjoyable.
Another palate-blasting cocktail was the “Peach Me a Lesson” by Seamstress’s Jeremy Hawn. Bittermens ‘Elemakule Tiki Bitters, lemon juice, and not one but two creme liqueurs (peche and violette) made this fruity drink absolutely explosive. As you can see from the photo, the cocktail umbrella in the Peach Me a Lesson is flipped upward. Jeremy explained to us that orange blossom juice is actually in the umbrella, so the smell basically hits your nose right as you put the drink to your face. If you crank up the heat, make Polynesian-themed burgers and mist your apartment, this would make a great accompanying cocktail. It’s a highly tropical, sense-hitting concoction.
Perhaps the stiffest drink of the night was the Forced Holiday by Holiday Cocktail Lounge’s Dustin Olson. Santa Teresa 1796 rum, Amaro Ramazzotti, Giffard Banane du Brésil(one of my favorite liqueurs) and Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters came together for a cocktail that while sweet had a little bit more of that digestif bite- think woodsiness and dark chocolate. Giffard Banane du Brésil is a mouthwatering banana liqueur that actually contains Cognac, helping it mate with the ingredient of the night.
The winner of the night ended up being the “Book of Matthew,” a lovely shaken cocktail from Greg Buda of The Dead Rabbit. Lemon juice, fig cordial, Pineau des Charentes, and Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Bitters helped this Force 53 Cognac cocktail perfectly straddle sweet and bitter. Fig was an excellent fruit to focus on, as it has vegetal qualities and doesn’t overdo it on the tartness. The Pineau was another good choice of accompanying ingredient, as it added a little terroiristic flavor. A victory well won!
Interested in whipping up a Cognac cocktail with Force 53 yourself? It retails for around $45. Remember, it’s strong (106 proof), but fruit-forward, so tread carefully and creatively. Happy mixing!