PDT’s Jeff Bell and The NoMad’s Thomas Pastuszak collaborated on a brandy meant specifically for cocktails.
When you think of brandy, you might think of Cognac, which isn't a bad thing, considering this spirit made from distilled wine is having a something of a heyday, as producers experiment with new ways of making and marketing the stuff. Cognac's moment notwithstanding, though, the world of brandy is vast. So vast, in fact, that in 2017, 5.7 million nine-liter cases were sold in the U.S.—marking a 42 percent increase since 2002. People are drinking brandy, it seems.
So when two of the biggest names in the drinks world teamed up on a new kind of brandy—one specifically made for mixing in cocktails—I perked up. Apparently, even more people are drinking brandy, and these people are important people.
The new bottle is called Bertoux, and the big names in question are consulting master blenders Jeff Bell, general manager of PDT (NYC & Tokyo) and bar director at Legacy Records (NYC), and Thomas Pastuszak, sommelier at The Nomad (NYC & L.A.). Bertoux comes out today, September 5, and will be available at NYC's The Dead Rabbit, Legacy Records, Katana Kitten & PDT for now.
What drew these two pros to the project? Bells calls brandy "a highly versatile, underutilized category, especially in the U.S. It was a marquee cocktail ingredient that was prevalent during the first Golden Age of the Cocktail in the 19th century." But as mass-produced brandies took off in the U.S., the spirit lost its luster stateside. Meanwhile, "more quality-driven brandies from around the world become prohibitively expensive for mixological use," Bell explains. Enter Bertoux, which Bell, Pastuszak and wine and spirits entrepreneur Jeff Menashe, founder of the brand, hope will restore brandy's reputation. "We see a great opportunity to establish a premium category for brandy from California with the launch of Bertoux Brandy," Bell says.
The pot-distilled Bertoux is a blend of spirits aged three to seven years in French and American oak, and has notes of candied apricot, orange blossom and honeysuckle, as well as toasty hints of nutmeg. Pastuszak, who was drawn to brandy early on in his affinity for spirits because of its "grape-based kinship," describes Bertoux as "youthful yet mature, energetic yet resolved."
Bell loves it in a Sidecar or a Collins, but he's also looking forward to test-driving it in hot cider and stirred drinks as the weather cools.
The name Bertoux comes from Jean Bertoux, who invented what became the sidecar of a motorcycle—the sidecar, of course, being the most famous cocktail that calls for brandy. Whether or not Bertoux will catch on and steer the spirits category back into the limelight of cocktail culture is yet to be determined. But there's only one way to find out, and it's bound to be tasty.