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Little of Pineau, the rich, secondary products of the French brandy industry, is known outside France. In essence, it is a mixture of newly distilled eau de vie and grape juice in a ratio of between 1:4 and 1:3. In the case of Pineau des Charentes, which is made by many cognac producers, after mixing it is aged in oak casks making it richer and much more desirable. This is not the case in Armagnac, where the equivalent product, Floc, is not aged. These secondary drinks of their respective industries are often compared with port or sherry. Their qualities are not dissimilar but they must not be confused. When making pineau the grape juice is added to the eau de vie whereas with fortified drinks, the brandy is added to the wine. In most cases these rich drinks are consumed as an aperitif and served cold. However, some people consume them as a dessert wine – tantalisingly attractive when served with a rich cheese or sweet pudding.
Since the reign of Henry IV, monarchs of France have used lemons to clear their mouths between tasting different brandies and this tradition has been carried on for more than four centuries. Today, many cognac cocktails have been made incorporating lemons. Sticking with this tradition, Brandyclassics has formulated a long cocktail incorporating Pineau des Charentes, lemons and cognac. It is widely used as an introduction drink at parties and more formal celebrations and is a delight on a hot sunny day.
To make Pineau Royale: Take half a bottle of Pineau and half a bottle of sparkling mineral water, mix in a jug with the juice of 3 lemons and about 50cl of Hermitage 2005 Grande Champagne Cognac, add lots of ice and stir. Serve with slices of lemon in a highball glass.