Find the key etiquette rules on how to serve and drink Cognac and tips to be the ideal host or the perfect guest at the dining table.

how to serve and drink cognac

What Cognac etiquette is

Cognac etiquette is the set of rules to properly serve and drink Cognac. Such rules help avoid behaviors that can disrespect hosts or guests, or make you look unpolite.

If you are hosting, follow Cognac etiquette to appropriately serve it to your guests.

If you are a guest, respect Cognac etiquette rules to properly drink and enjoy it.

What you should know about Cognac

Cognac is a distilled spirit. It is a type of brandy typical of France. Cognac is an appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) product. 

The qualities of Cognac vary mostly based on the producer and the aging process. The alcohol content is usually 40%.

Etiquette tips to serve and drink Cognac

1) How to store Cognac

Store Cognac in a cool and dry place. The temperature should be constant. 

Keep the bottle away from sources of heat. The bottle should not be exposed to direct light, natural or artificial. 

Avoid storing Cognac in the fridge or the freezer. Both are too cold in temperature and risk spoiling it.

After opening it, you can keep a bottle of Cognac for several months. 

2) How to prepare Cognac

Cognac does not need preparation. Do not chill it before serving.

Cognac can be used as an ingredient for savory or sweet dishes. It is popular in meat, fish, and seafood recipes. 

3) How to serve & present Cognac

Serve Cognac at room temperature. The ideal temperature is about 18°C (65°F). Colder temperatures prevent the product from releasing its aroma. 

Present Cognac in its bottle. On informal occasions, it is acceptable to present a bottle that has already been opened. On formal occasions, it is best to serve a new bottle and to open it at the table. 

Serve Cognac in a tulip or brandy glasses

Do not chill the glasses in the fridge before presenting them. The condensation risks watering down the Cognac. Similarly, you should not serve Cognac with ice.

You can mix Cognac in cocktails. Never serve shots of Cognac.

4) When to serve & drink Cognac

Cognac is a strong, aromatic, and meditative drink. Thus, Cognac is appropriate for after-meal drinks. Cocktails based on Cognac too can be served as after-meal drinks. You can serve Cognac to accompany desserts or fruit courses during a meal. 

Cognac is not appropriate as a pre-meal drink, or to accompany savory courses during a meal.

Cognac is most appropriate for formal occasions. However, it can be served at informal gatherings too.

5) Food & aromas to pair Cognac with

Cognac can enrich the flavor of red meat, poultry, fish, or seafood recipes when used as an ingredient. Its aroma is perfect for dessert and sweet dishes too.

Cognac as a drink pairs well with fruits and desserts. It can go well with French cheese, such as Camembert. Its aroma combines well with nuts, caramel, honey, mint, vanilla, or bitter chocolate. You can pair Cognac with peach, apricot, pear, or berries. 

6) How to drink Cognac

Drink Cognac neat. Drink it in a tulip glass or a brandy glass. 

Do not add ice to Cognac.

Sip Cognac like a long drink. A glass should last between 20 and 30 minutes.

Cognac serving & drinking etiquette: the worst mistakes

When serving or drinking Cognac, avoid the worst etiquette mistakes. 

  • 10/10. Getting drunk. 
  • 7/10. Serving Cognac cold.
  • 7/10. Adding ice to Cognac.
  • 7/10. Drinking shots of Cognac.
  • 5/10. Serving an already opened bottle on a formal occasion.

Additional information for properly serving Cognac

How many calories per serving?

Counting calories is important to stay healthy and to correctly plan a menu.

On average, Cognac contains about 245 calories per 100 ml (3.5 oz). An individual serving is a tulip glass of 70 ml (2.3 oz). It contains 170 calories.

How to buy the best Cognac

A crucial factor in Cognac etiquette is to serve the best product possible to your guests.

Choose the best

Cognac must display an AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée) label on the bottle. The AOC label certifies that the producers respected all legal and quality requirements.

Cognac qualities vary based on their cru (vineyards or area of production). 

Finally, Cognac has different denominations based on the aging process.

  • V.S. or Very Special: aged for at least 2 years in a cask.
  • V.S.O.P. or Very Superior Old Pale: aged for at least 4 years in a cask.
  • Napoléon: aged for at least 4 years.
  • XO or Extra Old): aged for at least 10 years.
  • XXO or Extra Extra Old: aged for at least 14 years.

Alternatives to Cognac

You can replace Cognac with brandy, premium Rum, or Armagnac. 


  • Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC):