It’s a Wednesday night in late January and Bar Luciole in Cognac, France, is comfortably full. Bartenders from a Europe-wide cocktail competition serve their signature drinks, and the high-ceiling bar echoes with a mix of DJ beats, ice hitting cocktail tins, and too many different languages and accents to keep track of.
It’s a far different scene than the Cognac of a decade ago. Cognac, a town of fewer than 20,000 people, is two hours north by train from Bordeaux (an hour and a half by car). It’s full of Old World charm thanks to tight and winding stone streets that lead to the Charente River. Cognac is also, of course, famous for the brandy that shares the town’s name. That’s been true of Cognac for centuries. There’s a new energy in the town, though. In 2012, the first serious cocktail-focused bar opened, Bar Louise, followed by Bar Luciole in 2017, and, most recently, 1838 in the Hôtel Chais Monnet.