What started out as a book launch became an evening to remember. I was at Aster Hall for John Hogan’s book launch about the Watertower. I was getting ready to leave when my friend texted me and joined me at the book launch. Afterwards, we were headed home, but I wanted to squeeze more out of my night. We decided to take the escalators down just in case there was another event happening. As we descended upon Sur La Table, he said, “What is going on in there?” And a night to remember was born.

We walked in the store and the smell of Hennessy greeted us. Warm, spicy and sweet clouds beckoned us inside the cooking class area.

Thank you to Armando Zapata for his generosity, knowledge and humor that warmed a cold Chicago day.

We began our lesson. Armando gave an engaging history of the Hennessy family and Hennessy distillation process. Did you know Hennessy was first made twenty years before the Declaration of Independence was signed? Did you know each batch is tasted only by the Hennessy family? Drinking all day? How many Hennessys are single?

Using the glasses below, we learned how to smell and taste Hennessy. By imagining the glass as a clock, we were instructed to smell at different times. Different smells can be detected depending on what “time” area you smell on your glass. I didn’t know. It was apricot at noon and vanilla at 3 pm.

The glass on the right contained Hennessey XO (aged 30 to 50 years) and the glass on the left contained VSOP (aged 15 years)

We learned of the different types of Hennessy as well. There are classified by the age in the barrel. I drank Hennessy that was almost as old as I am !!

Then we began making cocktails. We started with a French 75. We used top notch champagne. I love champagne. The night began to sparkle with possibility.

French 75 – getting ready to toast

Three arancini balls were placed before us. I was thrilled. They were delish. It felt like a joyful New Year’s Eve.

More great news! We were gifted recipe cards. I did not even need to take notes. All I had to do was savor the Hennessy and make the next cocktail.

Our next cocktail was from New Orleans, one of my favorite cities. We made a Sazerac. Confession: this was my first time using a cocktail shaker. It was fun.

We then began to cook the gnocchi and sage.

Then we took a shopping break. We were able to take our drinks around the store and browse. Shopping is so much better with Hennessy.

As the night drew to a close, the lily was gilded. Creme brulee for desert and fifty year old Hennessy.

We were each given embossed recipe cards as a souvenir of our wonderful voyage with Hennessey. It was an invaluable trip.

To ice the cake, we stepped outside to this:

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