I came upon the Brunswick while looking through Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars: 1903-1933. I live near Brunswick (Maine) so it caught my eye and since it seemed reminiscent of the Brooklyn, a longstanding house favorite, I figured it was worth a shot. There is another drink by the same name which looks a lot like a New York Sour. This is not that drink.
The brandy (I used armagnac in place of cognac) comes through at the beginning with grape and hints of fruit (pear maybe?). Dry vermouth lightens and adds some herbs, Picon brings bitter and orange flavors while Benedictine sweetens and adds a touch of weight. This is something I would happily make again.
It is also another example where I feel that subbing armagnac for cognac doesn't just save money, it makes for an interesting and entirely enjoyable version of the drink. The analogy comparing armagnac and cognac to rye and bourbon makes sense. In cocktails, rye is likely to contribute a robust, assertive, spicy and less-smooth (definitely not in a bad way) quality compared to bourbon. There are certainly some exceptions but generally speaking I regard rye as a less-tame relation of bourbon. Sometimes bourbon is exactly the right call, other times rye, it just depends on the situation. Between cognac and armagnac the cognac is going to be the smoother of the two but the armagnac might have a bit more personality.
Similar to the contrast between the mash bills of bourbon (heavy on the corn) and rye (heavy on the rye), there are differences in the grape varieties used for the distillation of armagnac and cognac. Armagnac uses a variety of grapes including Folle Blanche, Ugni Blanc, Baco Blanc and Colombard whereas cognac is often comprised of just Ugni Blanc. The flavor, climate and soil conditions associated with those grapes are a factor as is the time spent in the barrel and sometimes the wood used for that barrel.
The biggest difference though is in the distillation. Cognac is distilled twice in a pot still while armagnac is distilled once, at a lower temperature and usually in a continuous alembic-type still specific to the production of armagnac. Compared to cognac, armagnac is often made by smaller distilling operations capable of pursuing different expressions by using this unique type of distillation along with the broader variety of grapes. The differences in distillation, says Eric Asimov in this more detailed article, allow armagnac to "achiev[e] heartiness at the expense of refinement." More rustic and robust, less smooth (but again, not in a bad way)...definitely something I'd like to explore further.
Brunswick - Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars: 1903-1933, Charles Christopher Mueller
2/3 (1 1/2 oz) Cognac
1/3 (3/4 oz) Dry Vermouth
1 dash (1/4 oz) Benedictine
1 dash (1/4 oz) Amer Picon
Garnish - Cherry (To my chagrin I found my batch had turned)