As founder of renowned Parisian bar Le Syndicat and veteran of other world-class establishments, Sullivan Doh (@sullivandoh) knows his spirits. He made the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2016, and most recently he’s been working as Global Brand Ambassador for D’Ussé cognac—a relatively new brand that has access to relatively old cognac. We spoke with him about the tremendous growth in that category, where he’s spent the pandemic, and how very nicely cognac plays in cocktails.
What’s your personal history with cognac?
As a French native, I’ve dedicated much of my career to shining a light on French spirits—which, of course, includes cognac. Cognac has always been a favorite spirit of mine, as it’s a timeless liquid with a rich history. As a bartender, it’s incredibly fun to work with and to mix in different serves. As an imbiber, it’s simply a delicious spirit to sip.
It’s really been on the rise recently. Why do you think that is happening?
There’s no denying that cognac is in the midst of an incredible boom; last year, it was the fastest growing spirit, with sales up 62% from 2019 to 2020. D’ussé is the fastest growing brand in the category, up 109%. There are several different factors at play. Since the onset of the pandemic, consumers are drinking at home more than ever before, so there’s an interest to experiment with different spirits. Cognac is by no means “new”—but it is incredibly unique. It’s a craft spirit with extremely limited production (less than 1% of the world’s spirits by volume), so it’s not as mainstream as other dark spirits. We’ve seen more and more consumers beginning to embrace cognac, and this increased demand is proof that its “catching up” to other spirits on the shelves.
Part of that is the rise in cocktailing, right?
Absolutely! We tend to forget but cognac has been a major player since the beginning of the cocktail industry in the middle of the 1800s. Some of the first cocktail recipes involved it. Today it’s growing in popularity as bartenders and consumers alike are beginning to appreciate the unique warmth and depth it can bring to your glass. For years, cognac was relegated to only neat serves or traditional cocktails, when in reality, it works incredibly well in a variety of different flavor profiles. What I love most about using D’ussé in cocktails is that its expansive flavor and aroma compliments all types of cocktails, from bright, fruit-forward serves to richer, stirred sips. It’s truly an asset on your bar cart.
What makes D’ussé special?
Uncompromised quality. While it’s a relatively young brand, the liquid has been curated at one of the oldest cognac houses in France, the Chateau de Cognac, by the senior-most Maitre de Chai working today, Michel Casavecchia. D’ussé is really a modern expression of a timeless spirit. The brand works continuously to transcend cognac as we know it, reinvigorating and breathing new life into the category.
Where have you spent the pandemic? Are things opening up in France right now?
I’ve actually been with my family in Harlem throughout the pandemic. After spending my entire career working in the hospitality world, it’s been incredibly difficult to see the industry struggle so much over the past year—not only here in New York, but across the globe. I’ve been doing everything I can to help support the industry, from hosting virtual events, to making donations, to ordering lots of to-go cocktails from my favorite bars and restaurants.
Can you share a cocktail recipe with us?
Here’s a little variation on a classic:
The Splendid Sidecar
1 ½ Parts D’ussé VSOP Cognac
1 Part Orange Liqueur
¾ Part Lemon Juice
1 Bar Spoon Orange Blossom Water
Add all ingredients into a shaker with ice.
Shake vigorously and double-strain into a coupe glass.