Your Guide to Summer’s Latest Spirit

Brandy is having a moment in San Francisco.

Cognac isn’t exactly the spirit you think of on a hot summer night. But you’re about to have your impressions of this drink disrupted, thanks to San Francisco’s Gaspar Brasserie, located on the ground floor of Galleria Park Hotel. Head upstairs to the cozy Cognac Room, where star bartender John Codd has selected 50 classic brandy cocktails, played around with the flavors, and put them on the menu. To learn, just drink.

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First, what is Cognac?

Cognac is a grape brandy that is made in that region of France. While the name of the room may be Cognac, it serves brandies that are made outside of that region. It also serves brandies derived from fruit and pomace (the solid remains of the grapes, olives, and fruit).

Some brandies you may know:


Both Pisco and Armagnac are made from grapes, albeit different grapes and in different regions. Pisco is from Peru or Chile, while Armagnac is from that region in France. Grappa is from Italy’s grapes. Calvados is made with apples or pears in the French region of Calvados.

You may not be as familiar with: Eaux de Vie. It is brandy made from fruit. It can be made from plums, apricots, pears. Makers are getting original.

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The absolute best drinks to try at Gaspar’s Cognac Room:

The California Milk Punch is out-of-control delicious, made with clarified milk and tea-infused Pisco. Pineapple and spices give it a summery jolt. The two below are also bright, happy drinks for the end of summer, and the recipes are shared so you can try them at home.

Champs Elysees (courtesy of Savoy Cocktails)

1.5 oz. Cognac
0.5 oz. lemon
0.5 oz. chartreuse
0.5 oz. simple syrup
2 dash Angostura
1 dash orange bitters
Lemon peel (for garnish)

Combine all ingredients and shake, double strain into Coupe glass.

Pineapple Apricot Tropical (courtesy of Gentleman’s Companion)

1.5 oz. Barsol Pisco
0.75 oz. lime
0.75 oz. Small Hand Foods pineapple gum syrup
0.5 oz. apricot eau de vie
2 dash Angostura bitters
0.5 oz. simple syrup
2 dash Angostura
Mint sprig (for garnish)

Combine all ingredients and shake, double strain into Old Fashioned glass over hand-cut ice cube.

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How do you learn more?

Dig into one of the bar’s flights. “Point Blanc” gives tastes of the different brandies, from Pisco and Armagnac to Grappa; or you can do “Cognac Terroir,” learning all about that brandy. Eight different flights are available.