COGNACS EDUCATORS AROUND THE WORLD: EP.3 CHRISTIAN ESSER
Are you ready to discover our third Cognac Educator? Let’s meet Christian Esser! Based in the Cayman Island, he is a bar owner, the creator of a wine school and a renowned Cognac Educator.
PORTRAIT OF OUR GUEST SPEAKER: CHRISTIAN ESSER
Born in Austria, Christian Esser worked all around the world (Australia, New Zealand and Canada) before moving to the Cayman Islands about 15 years.
In 2012, he decided to open WineSchool3, where him and his team teach wine enthusiasts, sommeliers and wine merchants. The school also specializes in private and corporate tastings — with topics ranging from food and wine pairing to vintage wine tastings. Three years ago, he opened Le Petit Bar, in the West Bay part of the Cayman Islands. The place serves amazing French specialities, along with rare and unique spirits from all around the world. When he’s not developing new cocktail recipes, he’s teaching amazing people about Cognac, as a Cognac Educator. He told us everything about his vision and passion.
If you could describe Cognac in one word, what would it be?
Cognac is one of a kind and most certainly bold. The first time I tasted Cognac was about 20 years ago, when I was doing an internship in Austria. It was such a great and memorable experience, all those flavors. It was so surprising, compared to the experience I had with other spirits.
What distinguishes Cognac from other spirits?
The harmony of all the flavors, definitely. And I don’t find that in other spirits. That’s why I feel Cognac is such an interesting and aromatic product.
What’s one thing you’ve learned during your Cognac Educator training that surprised you?
Probably the Cognac pairing aspect. I’ve been working in the wine pairing industry for more than 20 years now: all of a sudden, I’ve been exposed to Cognac pairing, and matching that spirit with all kind of cheeses. The beauty of that spirit is it’s versatility: it’s always an amazing option when it comes to dishes. Over the past two years, I’ve tried a lot of new things: with Wine School 3, we work a lot with cheese, specially the blue ones — that are usually hard to pair with wines. But Cognac pairing is usually a matter of personal preferences.
It must be very special to pass down what you know about Cognac during masterclasses, trainings and tastings. What do you enjoy the most?
Cognac has been such an established spirit around the globe. When we do masterclasses, people are just so interested in learning about the authentic spirit, the process that goes behind it. During tastings, we highlight some of the big brands, but also make sure to introduce some smaller names as well. What is also interesting about the fact that I train people and teach them about Cognac, is that I keep learning new things.
What do you like most about Cognac?
The passion behind the process of making Cognac. I’ve talked over the phones to the smaller brands, and the way they talk about their product is just so authentic. Some houses will select barrels and hang onto them for a lifetime before even considering using them: because they know that that’s what makes an amazing Cognac – according to me.
If you were a Cognac, how would it be, and why?
That’s a very interesting question. I would be a VSOP Cognac (Very Superior Old Pale). Because it has so many different expressions. The blending of the various agings is what makes it unique. It’s pretty complex, thanks to the layers of aromas.
What’s one person you would love to share a Cognac with? Dead or alive?
Probably someone who has been drinking brown spirit for ever, and always stayed away from Cognac, because of their misperception of it. So that I can introduce Cognac to them.
What is, according to you and your personal preferences, the best way to enjoy Cognac?
In general, the best way to enjoy Cognac, according to me of course, is neat, in one of those tulip glasses. Because you don’t want to warm up the drink with your hands. At the bar, we have a very similar one: that shape makes the aromas pop in a very unique way.
Do you have a special and secret cocktail recipe you want to share with us?
Yes of course, it’s called « An Apple a Day », it’s a cocktail we serve at the bar.
What’s the recipe?
I make it by mixing a VS Cognac with an earl grey preparation we make in house, lemon juice, fig syrup, plum and root beer bitters. We either serve it in a coupe, or on the rocks.
What are your favorite places to go to when you want to enjoy a glass of Cognac?
Besides the bar I opened, I love having a glass Cognac on the beach, with my dog Biscuit. It’s a 5-minutes walk from where I live, so it’s pretty nice to go there and enjoy the sunset. I’ll occasionally go to the Seafire, a nice hotel near by.
Thank you so much for your input, it was lovely to meet you (virtually). Where can we contact you, or follow your work?
Thank you! You can follow Wine School 3 on Instagram (@wineschool3caribbean) and contact me through the live chat we have on the website.