Logo du disclamer
Pour visiter ce site vous devez avoir l'âge légal pour acheter et consommer de l'alcool. S'il n'existe pas de législation à cet égard dans votre pays, vous devez être âgé de 18 ans au moins.
L'abus d'alcool est dangereux pour la santé, à consommer avec modération.

Cosmopolite

COGNACS EDUCATORS AROUND THE WORLD: EP.2 Kevin Armstrong

For our second stop in the Cognac Educator series, let’s meet Kevin Armstrong, a bar owner in London, and a Cognac specialist like no other. He never misses a chance to talk about his passion for the refined spirit.

Portrait of our guest speaker: Kevin Armstrong

Self-employed for a long time, Kevin Armstrong moved to London to go to university.

He first started bartending in 1998 and began his journey with Cognac in 2002, when he joined the Match Bars. He took his Cognac Educator course in 2012. He then became a beverage consultant and collaborated with a company that owns some of the best cocktail bars in the United Kingdom: “I basically spent a lifetime in beverages”, he says. Since sharing is caring, he also worked as an operations director for a big street food market, called London Union — which was the first market to present such a large range of food operators.

Kevin Armstrong

Kevin Armstrong

Today, Kevin Armstrong has two main roles. First, he runs a small and independent cocktail bar in East London, called Satan’s Whiskers. Almost 9 years after the grand opening, the place is now a renowned 50-cover venue, amongst the locals and spirit enthusiasts from all around the world. But his own personal passion for spirits doesn’t stop there. Indeed, he also works with a friend as an operations director, running a few restaurants and a wine bar.

Satan's Whiskers bar

Satan’s Whiskers bar

bar satan's

Satan’s Whiskers bar

If you could describe Cognac in one word, what would it be?

Versatility. It’s multifaceted. Whatever you choose to do with it, there is something suitable that allows you to facilitate that. Whether you’re interested in the luxury spirit market, or use Cognac for mixed drinks. There’s a large range you can explore, and I don’t think there’s anything quite like it.

What distinguishes Cognac from other spirits?

In my opinion, what makes Cognac stand out from other spirits is the sheer range of both aroma and flavor that it offers. The expectations are pretty high with Cognac, and it’s hard to be disappointed. The variety only intensifies as you work through aging and through getting familiar with the different styles. Whatever you’re into, there is a flavor profile that you will enjoy. There is no other spirit category that has that breath.

What’s one thing you’ve learned during your Cognac Educator training that surprised you?

I’ve been a Cognac Educator for 10 or 11 years now, so it’s hard for me to remember what surprised me the most. But I’ll say this: I’m just as impassioned now than I was when I started the educator’s program. I still love learning about production, how they make Cognac. And of course, I still come across products that I haven’t tasted yet, which is always exciting.

It must be very special to pass down what you know about Cognac during masterclasses, training and tastings. What do you enjoy the most?
Probably talk about the level of detail that surrounds production, laws, decision-making, and everything that can’t be ignored when it comes to Cognac. Being able to do that well is very satisfying and is an essential part of any session. But I think, truthfully, what I take the most pleasure in is encouraging different ways to consume Cognac.

What do you like most about Cognac?

I’m probably slightly biased but being the owner of a cocktail bar, I think that mixed drinks and cocktails are an essential part of the tasting. When you offer a Cognac cocktail during a masterclass, you can see the preconceptions start to melt away on people’s faces—because when they have never had Cognac before, they never really know what to expect. And I love that about Cognac!

If you were a Cognac, how would you be, and why?

I’ve never envisioned myself as a Cognac. But what I do know is that I’m a big fan of the lighter, more delicate styles, that have a good balance and fruit aromas.

Who is the one person you would love to share a Cognac with? Dead or alive?

It’s really difficult to answer, because there are so many people that would, no doubt, make excellent drinking partners, for various reasons. Especially historical figures. Even someone that would allow you to solve one of the great mysteries of the world. Having a Cognac with the captain of the Mary Celeste sounds incredible, for example. But what I’m most looking forward to is, when they are old enough to do it, share a glass with my children. I think it will be my ultimate test as a Cognac Educator: whether I can get them to be future Cognac advocates or not! I’ve got such a fabulous range of things for them to try when they’ll be the right age.

What is, according to you and your personal preferences, the best way to enjoy Cognac?

If I’m drinking it, it’s always neat! I think it’s the best way to understand the subtlety between brands and producers. But for the most part, that element of the journey can be a long way off. One thing that I encourage a lot when it comes to working with Cognac, especially when I do bartending sessions, is to try Cognac in long drinks, and with fruits. I think a lot of bartenders try to work with Cognac the same way that they work with whisky. They focus on the flavors brought by the wood. But, for me, that doesn’t work. If you don’t really know where to get started, you could put your hands on a Fentimans: a UK-produced carbonated drink, tailored-made for Cognac.

Do you have a special and secret cocktail you want to share with us?

The East India, which is a cocktail from the early 1920s, that I learned to make in the early 2000s. And it always works!

cocktail East India

East India cocktail

What’s your recipe?

You make it by mixing the Cognac of your choice with fresh pineapple juice, lemon juice, orange curaçao, maraschino, syrup and a dash of Angostura. You usually serve it in a 5.5 oz coupette* with no ice. If you want to make it a bit fancy, you can also add an orange twist, or some nutmeg.

* a type of cocktail glass.

What are your favorite places to go to when you want to enjoy a glass of Cognac?

I think locations are often intricately bonded to memories. They are part of the experiences and sometimes even the reason why experiences are even memorable. There are places where things taste better or feel better.

I can’t think of a better way to end this conversation. Thank you so much Kevin, it was lovely to meet you (virtually). Where can we contact you, or follow your work?

Thank you! You can follow my cocktail bar on Instagram (@satans_whiskers).

Crédit photo : © Steven Joyce

© Unsplash

SEE ALSO

Cognac culture in Seattle

Seattle Cocktail Week ...

New-York : when Cognac meet East Village

Located in the East Village, Pouring Ribbons is a friendly place where locals come to ...
comment