I prefer grape-based spirits to grain-based. Back in the 19th century, so did many American drinkers, until a late century Phylloxera outbreak wiped out much of France’s grapes and essentially cut off the flow of wine, brandy and cognac. That’s when drinkers in the U.S. had to turn to domestic spirits like whiskey and bourbon in their tipples. It’s time to go back to cognac. Cognac is basically blended brandy aged in French oak — its flavor rich and complex, with a deep bouquet, that retains lively fruit notes and loads of vanilla, caramel and even coconut. It was originally made for export and transported in oak barrels to Holland, and later, the U.S. These days, bartenders love to mix cocktails with cognac as the base spirit. Many bars, like Vol. 39 in Chicago’s Gray Hotel, serve cognac Old-Fashioneds in addition to whiskey-based ones, perhaps as a nod to Wisconsin’s unofficial state drink, the brandy Old-Fashioned, but more likely to show off the elegant spirit. “While cognac is a beautiful year-round spirit, there is something essentially autumnal about it and other aged fruit brandies,” says Seth Sempere, a bartender at Zig Zag in Seattle. “They have depth and heft but are ...