Pineau des Charentes, cognac's lesser-known cousin, came about through a happy accident. In the late 16th century, a winemaker unknowingly added grape must to a barrel that still held some cognac eau-de-vie. After the mix aged for a few years, he opened it for a taste and—voila!—a new spirited wine emerged.
Since then, pineau—a combination of fresh or fermented grape juice or must and cognac—hasn't had much of an audience in the U.S. But bartenders across the country have started to focus on the fruity yet nutty flavor of these fortified wines and with brilliant results. We uncovered a handful of cocktails at restaurants and bars around the country that incorporate pineau. Whether you’re a tequila drinker or a sherry sipper, these are the five pineau drinks to try now.
Bartender Patrick Natola of Sable Kitchen & Bar in Chicago wanted to create a great Martini by swapping in tequila for gin but felt that vermouth alone lacked something. He recalled rich vanilla and stone fruit notes in pineau and combined that with tequila, sweet white vermouth and Gran Classico bitter liqueur for a bitter finish. The result is a refreshingly balanced drink with big floral notes rounded out with hints of vanilla and orange.
The bar team at Downstairs at The Esquire Tavern in San Antonio has long praised pineau and always has a bottle on the backbar. Recently, a customer asked bar manager Myles Worrell to make a cocktail with it after tasting it on its own. The result was an on-the-fly concoction combining pineau with rum, sherry and mole bitters. Look for the drink to find its way onto the permanent cocktail list, but in the meantime, stop by and ask Worrell to make one for you.
It has been a long time since the first Bamboo cocktail was made in Japan back in the 1890s. The drink was nearly forgotten after Prohibition, but it has recently enjoyed a comeback. At Washington, D.C.’s Mirabelle, lead bartender Zachary Faden's twist substitutes pineau for the original sherry. This simple cocktail with dry vermouth, Angostura bitters and orange bitters has an elegant roundness with hints of caramel and nuts.
After a trip to NYC’s Attaboy, The Eddy head bartender Brian Elder in New York created this pastel-colored drink after looking to add a refreshing easy-sipping cocktail to his list. The drink at Attaboy used muddled strawberries, but to lessen the prep time and reduce spent fruit waste, Elder makes a strawberry cordial, which combines with lemon juice, gentian, gin and pineau. The drink takes a garnish of fresh basil for extra aromatics.