by Robbie Hodges, The Telegraph, April 28, 2017
Cognac: the drink is not synonymous with modernity. But one visit to Martell’s Thameside suite at the Mondrian hotel will make even the most discerning cognac drinker flip 180° and is sure to leave taste buds reeling.
The golden rule of self-professed connoisseurs - "cognac must be drunk neat" - is immediately thrown into question upon arrival in the hotel lobby. Champagne, Aperol, Vermouth, Cointreau; the list of ingredients on the bespoke cocktail menu at the Martell bar is enough to send an orthodox cognac drinker into hermitage.
As Matthias Lataille, Martell ambassador and walking-talking cognac encyclopedia, explains, “the french brandy was commonly used as the base note in cocktails throughout the 19th century”. But, following the rise of the bawdier British brandy, cognac became cemented as a digestif and caricatured as the preserve of overweight men spluttering on cigar ash. It’s an outdated image which Martell are keen to dispel. They do so, with style.
Drinks aside, finding the Martell suite is an adventure in itself. “Follow the blue lights until you reach the gold swift” read the instructions on the suite keycard. Soaring to the fourth floor, the evening continues in the plush environs of the Martell suite, buoyantly carried by a glass of clarified-milk punch on the rocks. Fresh pineapple juice, Noix St. Jean, Absinthe, a blend of spices and Martell VSOP; “a family recipe stolen from my sister,” Lataille admits, “two days in the making”. What follows is surely a culinary first.
Cue the "cognac gourmand" - a Martell-based spin on the french coffee-cum-dessert produced in collaboration with master pâtissier Pierre Hermé. Macarons flavoured like classic cognac-based cocktails (mint julep, sazerac, sidecar) burst on the palette, soaked by lappings of Martell VSOP - the brand’s rich and spicy dual blend.
A breath-taking reveal - you’ll see for yourself - then leads to the tasting room where a selection of Martell’s finest await. Alongside the brand’s XO and Cordon Bleu, is the pièce de résistance, Martell’s ‘Reserve Cognac Borderies’, a light, floral tipple comprised exclusively of grapes picked from the small Borderies appellation. An unblended cognac is rare, rarer still a cognac with a single eau-de-vie. Soak it up - the sweet nectar is served only at the Martell vineyard in Western France. Pas pour les rosbifs!
The evening is staggered by such exclusive blends, palatable collaborations and snippets of insider knowledge drawn from Martell’s 300 year history. More than a tutored tasting, Martell offer an education as full-bodied and rounded as the cognac itself. After a couple of hours spent sipping on the stuff, attendees are sure to leave in high spirits.
Those with a strong liver are left with two options: either hop across the channel and lose yourself amongst the vines of Martell’s Chateau Chanteloup or save on air miles and wile away the evening at Martell’s pop-up cognac bar downstairs at the Dandelyan.
The Martell Suite at Mondrian London takes place from the 26th-29th April & 3rd-6th May with two sessions per night from 7pm-9pm and 9pm-11pm. Tickets are priced at £45 and are available to buy online here .