French bartender Aurélie Panhelleux has partnered up with Elfi Fabritius and Julien Lopez to create the CopperBay brand of cocktail bars, including the original address in Paris and a branch in Marseille, located next to Carry Nation, where journalist Cécile Cau met up with her.
How long have you been interested in Cognac?
– Since the beginning of my career about twelve years ago. I am part of the International Cognac Summit, a dedicated community fostering meetings and discussions, of which this magazine is an extension. This has really helped to open my mind. Right away, I started working with Cognac and learned the discourse that comes with it. There are a lot of codes to be broken in this respect, even though “mixing” now attracts many types of people. I particularly like the versatility, freshness, and tanginess associated with this wine spirit. Cognac is never “just” Cognac. There is a Cognac to suit all tastes.
What is your approach at CopperBay?
– We place particular emphasis on food-derived ingredients. We work a lot with infusions, shrubs*, syrups, etc. We use different types of Cognacs depending on if we are looking for oakiness or roundness. We also like Cognac sours made with lemon juice, sugar, a touch of egg white, with a little fresh mint added during summer. This one is a real hit. At the bar, we always have eight cocktails on the menu, and they often include Cognac.
Is this the case right now?
– Yes, here we have the Élégant, a cocktail we created because all three of us wanted notes of spices, cocoa, and cinnamon for the winter! It is a combination of dry and sour. We chose Cognac because of its very light vanilla notes, and infused it with fresh pomegranate. Then, we added Noilly Prat Ambré, which provides roundness, plus a strong cider reduction used as a natural sweetener that contributes notes of baked apples. The cocktail is finished sous vide with cocoa nibs to extract notes of bitter cocoa and roasted aromas. All in all, this drink is extremely soothing and comforting, and many people enjoy it.
* Shrub: a mixture of water, sugar, fruit, vegetables, or spices, and vinegar. This tangy syrup has become very popular with bartenders, who use it in highly imaginative ways.