By Allyson Ash

With its most expensive variety selling for more than $2 million, it's clear that cognac is no ordinary beverage. Your budget might never reach to those heights, but even your local liquor store will stock several good examples of this most storied of all brandies. If you're new to the world of fine spirits, it's worth taking a little time and trouble to learn how to serve and drink cognac with the respect it deserves.

Barrels may store cognac, but you don't want to serve it in one of them.

Serving and Drinking Cognac

Step 1

Select a standard wine glass or brandy snifter, rather than the goblets sometimes sold for use with cognac. Those are too open, permitting the spirit's aromas to escape. Tulip-shaped glassware, narrowing at the top, traps the aromas and holds them in the glass for your enjoyment.

Step 2

Pour a modest amount of cognac into the glass, only enough to have it about ¼ full. Cup the base of the glass with your hand for a few minutes to gently warm the cognac, freeing its aromas, while you evaluate its color, viscosity and transparency.

Step 3

Lift the glass to within an inch or so of your nose, and inhale gently. Depending on the individual cognac, you might detect a range of floral or fruity smells, including rose, plum and grapefruit.

Step 4

Take a small sip of cognac, holding it in the front of your mouth for a moment and then letting it pass slowly over your palate. Inhale through your mouth as you swallow, then exhale gently through your nose. Your sinuses will fill with the cognac's aromas, complementing the flavor notes from your palate.