Ahead of World Cognac Day this June 4th, we take a look at this luxurious elixir and how it pairs with the bold flavours of Malaysian food.

Typically, cognac is an expensive spirit that’s often seen paired with the likes of rich chocolate and desserts. It’s a logical match — the flavour profile of it is just one that goes with the aroma of cocoa. But to pair it with Malaysian dishes? Now, that’s an unusual one, but not impossible.

To help us on our quest, we sought the help of Hemanth Jayaraman, Hennessy V.S and V.S.O.P senior brand manager. As a Malaysian himself, he knows our local foods best and how the VS and VSOP cognac will go with them.

Cognac is easy to pair with any food, as long as the flavour of the food is well balanced — that is, not too spicy, too acidic or too sweet.

Hemanth Jayaraman, Hennessy V.S and V.S.O.P senior brand manager

It’s also incorrect to think that this spirit won’t go well with the bold flavours of Malaysian food, because the latter may overpower the cognac’s taste. “Cognac itself is a strong spirit,” Jayaraman began. “It plays a complementary role instead of doing the opposite when pairing with heavy-flavoured food.”

(L-R) Hennessy V.S and Hennessy V.S.O.P Privilège.

“The spirit can be very light when mixed into a long drink due to its versatility. This particular drink will accompany perfectly with food, even light flavoured ones,” he continued.

Delving into the variants of Hennessy V.S and V.S.O.P cognacs, Jayaraman explained that the V.S is bold and fragrant with flavour profiles of toasted and fruity notes, and a rich, clearly-defined palate. Meanwhile, the V.S.O.P Privilége is a well-balanced and full-bodied cognac with the aroma of fresh fruit. “With these tasting notes, both cognacs can pair well with different types of food, especially fresh seafood or toasted and smoky food,” he said.

One rule, however, he mentioned, is that any food pairing with VS or VSOP cognac generally has to be combined with either water, ice, or a mixer to enhance the pairing. “A neat cognac will always overpower the food,” he clarified.

Nasi Lemak

Both Hennessy V.S and Hennessy V.S.O.P Privilège on the rocks with some water will be a good pair, as the crispiness in the cognacs will alleviate the spiciness of the sambal. You may get to experience this flavour for a while (at least), but it may not last until the end.

vsop cognac

Beef Rendang

You can opt to pair cognac with foods that are rich in texture due to its ability to cut through these foods. Enjoying beef rendang with a glass of Hennessy V.S or Hennessy V.S.O.P Privilège with soda or sparkling water (with a splash of water) will bring out the spice of the rendang and the meaty flavour of beef. 

Fish Curry

One thing to take note when pairing fish curry with cognac is that the fish has to be fresh. The flavour and spice in the curry will then be accentuated upon pairing cognac with soda or sparkling water due to its bubbly element.

Tandoori Chicken

This dish is usually served with some lime and lemon wedges that give a bit of zesty flavour. For a refreshing experience, mix cognac with a citrus mixer that many will enjoy. This chicken and cognac combination enhances the chicken which is tender and juicy while blending perfectly with the zestiness.

Hokkien Mee is a surprisingly good dish to pair cognac with. (Image credit: Instagram/ @justlimphoto)
Hokkien Mee

This is a classic dish that many love and you’ll be surprised to know that cognac pairs well with the flavour of dark soy sauce and the oiliness of this dish. Now, a neat cognac or with some water will do the trick.

Hainanese Chicken Rice

The tenderness of the chicken and creaminess of the seasoned rice (whether with oil or butter) sits well with a simple cognac on the rocks and splash of water. This will complement the rich flavour profile of chicken rice.

PohNee Chin
Editor, Kuala Lumpur
Poh Nee is the editor and writes about travel and drinks. When she's not living out her holiday dreams via Google Earth and sipping on an Old Fashioned down at the local bars, you can find her snug at home bingeing on Netflix and mystery fiction.