"Cognac sharaab nahin hoti,” says a chubby-cheeked Shah Rukh to a shivering Kajol in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. She sips it and soon starts swaying to zara sa jhoom loo main. A few years earlier, Rishi Kapoor said the same to Sridevi in Chandni, with much the same result. <b1>
Cognac, or brandy, has always been the ‘non-drink’ in India, an elixir for so many ills. For our grandparents, and their grandparents, it was the one alcoholic beverage that graced the shelf proudly — albeit only the medicine shelf. Have a sore throat? Sip on some warm brandy, son. Feeling cold? Have a shot. That’s how my parents had their first taste of alcohol, for instance, and I hear that people in the hills would treat frostbite by rubbing brandy over the affected parts. Even horses, cattle or dogs got a couple of spoonfuls in their feed at wintertime, to help them ‘stay warm’!
Only in recent years has this drink begun emerging from its musty image, coinciding with a global revival of interest in cognac. The market for premium brandy in the country has been growing at a healthy 25% in the last couple of years. In that same period, some of the world’s leading cognac brands — Remy Martin’s Louis XIII, Camus, Cognac Tesseron, Prince Hubert de Polignac and Bols — have entered the market, adding to those already present — Moet Hennessy, Davidoff and Martell.
Better yet, in what manufacturers are hoping will pull in the younger crowds, brandy cocktails are gaining popularity. Early last year, the BNIC (Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac) invited top bartenders and mixologists to Cognac, France, for the world’s first cognac cocktail summit. Together, they came up with The Summit — a reportedly lip smacking concoction of cognac, cucumber, fresh ginger, green lemons and mineral water. Kyndal
India, the company that has brought the Dutch Bols brandy to the country, plans to promote the drink in four forms: with soda, with tonic, as the Sidecar (brandy, orange liqueur, lemon juice) and as a cocktail called the Dutch Touch. The brandy market in India, it seems, is only going to grow bigger.
Thankfully, it’s brandy weather. Time to take out those snifters and have some, neat or otherwise.