Cognac, THE Drink of American Hip Hop

by Isabelle Escande

Martell Cognac

If Cognac was Napoleon’s favourite drink, it’s also been a favourite of American rappers for a few years now. Busta Rhymes, Snoop Dog, Tupac, Jay-Z … There are plenty of music artists who love it, turning Cognac into an identity symbol.

Cognac’s Revival Thanks to US Rap Music

In the early 2000s, the American rapper Busta Rhymes caused a stir with his video “Pass The Courvoisier”. In the video, the famous singer shared the stage with a bottle of Courvoisier, surrounded by his equally famous friends like Puff Daddy and Jamie Foxx. The famous Cognac house was taken by surprise, especially a few months later, when a 30% increase in sales was attributed to the improvised publicity stunt (the Cognac house allegedly never paid for the promotion!).

Since then, the drink’s popularity has continued to soar across the Atlantic. This has led to a real boom in Cognac production, which was in decline in its country of origin, France. The Cognac houses have increased their collaborations, and today there are few brands that don’t have a hip-hop star among their ambassadors. In 2013, the rapper Nas became the icon of Hennessy USA. Snoop Dogg, for his part, has partnered with Landy Cognac from Ferrand.

Some have even gone one step further in the partnership and have actually invested in the production of their favourite drink. Take the case of 50 Cent who recently launched his own brand (Branson Cognac “Uptown Spirits“) or Jay Z (rapper, husband of Beyoncé and businessman!) who has joined forces with Otard (owned by the Bacardi Group) to produce Ussé Cognac. As soon as it was launched, the first bottle signed by Jay Z, a VSOP, was an instant success. Today Jay Z’s brand is ranked among the 5 most popular Cognac houses. It’s not surprising, given that most Cognac (about 90%) is exported and that the United States is the leading importer

Where does this Passion for Cognac come from?

A symbol of luxury, Cognac is first and foremost a strong identity symbol and reflects the desire of a community to assert its own values. In concrete terms, the choice of cognac is a way of differentiating oneself from the WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants) who have a certain preference for whisky

But bear in mind that the link between the United States and the spirit dates far back. It’s thought to have begun as early as the 18th century when the first exports arrived. According to the American professor Emory Tolbert, it then experienced a certain revival with the return of American soldiers who had been stationed in the South-West of France. It seems they developed a fondness for the region’s golden nectar during the Second World War.

“Yak”, a Liquid with a Premium Price Tag

Very trendy in hip-hop circles, “yak”, the American nickname for Cognac, often comes with a hefty price tag. At 40/40, Jay-Z’s New York club, where Cognac is the real star, a shot of this drink can cost $650! A bottle can fetch up to $6,500…

Incidentally, in March of this year, the same artist auctioned off a bottle of D’Ussé Cognac, worth an estimated value of between $25,000 and $75,000. This was a “birthday” gift to the rapper on his 50th birthday in 2019. This limited-edition bottle, distilled in Grande-Champagne in 1969, is the same age as the famous American star, who was born on 4 December of the same year. Cut in the shape of a diamond, the bottle is decorated with 24-carat gold leaf. The bottle was finally sold for $52,500, (around £37,000) and the profits from the auction were donated to the Shawn Carter Foundation, an association that helps American students facing socio-economic hardships.

A Casual Approach

In the United States, there are no rules when it comes to Cognac. It’s drunk neat, mixed in long drinks with sparkling water or soda and is used in cocktails.

How do you like to drink yours? Let us know in the comments section below.

 TAGS:Hennessy V.S.

Hennessy V.S.

A cognac that is particularly appreciated across the Atlantic.

 TAGS:Martell Blue Swift

Martell Blue Swift

Martell was the first to export its cognacs to the United States in 1783. Today, it produces the first spirit based on VSOP cognac aged in bourbon barrels.

 TAGS:Courvoisier X.O.

Courvoisier X.O.

Little brother of Courvoisier X.O. Impérial which featured in the famous Busta Rhymes video.

Translated by Chelsea Cummings from Isabelle Escande’s original French article: Le cognac, LA boisson du hip-hop américain.

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