Insider’s Guide to Paris

Interviewed by
Sheena Bhattessa

Rebecca Asseline was born in Paris and spent much of her family life in Mougins, France, where food and wine were always at the heart of her family. Her relationship with Courvoisier has been longstanding, from her early days as a singer right through to her recent appointment as Courvoisier Global Brand Ambassador.

Following work at the Palais des Festivals in Cannes and Global Travel Retail Market, Rebecca undertook cognac training, found her passion, and has never looked back. To educate connoisseurs on the rich notes found in cognac, Rebecca has taken the ‘Le Nez de Courvoisier’ sensory programme across Europe.

Rebecca, tell us about your role at Courvoisier, how did you get involved?

I have the exciting job of educating people about the history, the process and the heritage. I give a voice to the master blender, the distiller and everyone in the Courvoisier House. Someone has to tell these beautiful stories, and that’s my job!

I try to tackle the clichés around the category making consumers and bartenders more excited about Cognac. You see the success of matured spirits like rum and whisky where you won’t have a small selection but you’ll have a dedicated whisky bar for example! Cognac is one of the most aromatic spirits in the world (science says this, not me!) and deserves this attention.

You mentioned clichés around the category, is this changing?

Yes absolutely, people link it to an older gentleman, sipping on a glass over Christmas. But it’s all about the messaging. Something we do is encourage sensory journeys. People are often shy about having such a spirit in their hand, thinking they can’t make the most of it. Through the sensorial experiences, we teach them about the journey, the making of and background so they can, in their own time, create their own experiences.

Cognac has very feminine touches, particularly Courvoisier’s house style. Elegant, harmonious, long lasting. At Courvoisier, we use 2 different types of oak – limousin (woodier types) and tronçais (a lot more refined). We end up with a cognac style that is more approachable and better for newcomers, which means there are less alcohol vapours and it is easier for female palates. You can mix it in a classic cocktail and you have a masterpiece.

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Courvoisier has history back to the launch of the ‘Eiffel Tower’ in 1889. It was a controversial opening, the tower did not fit the Art Nouveau movement, there were a lot of petitions, “We don’t want this horrific tower-looking thing in the middle of France”. What scared Parisians back then has since become the symbol of France and changed the whole face of Paris. Lots of people did not come to the grand opening because they disagreed with this building. We were the premium serve, showing we were not scared of change and embraced the new.

Before this time, there was no night lights on the street in Paris so there only existed a daytime drinking culture. We still have that today where you can go into brasserie and have a drink. But that same year, the Moulin Rouge launched and Courvoisier was served, the first alcohol brand to be so prominent, alongside champagne. It was Paris’ Golden Age… And so was born the Classic Champagne cocktail, using brandy as a base. We recently rebranded revisiting our history and relaunching this Golden Age!

Your title is ‘Global Brand Ambassador’ so you must travel a lot. Where has been your favourite or most memorable place? 

Travelling for me is a real mind and eye opener. But I do have my favourites. I am completely in love with Japan. It is equally conservative and open minded, full of hard working and disciplined people. They can be easily mistaken for being cold, but that perseverance and resilience makes them excellent at what they do.

Secondly, the Nordic countries. I have a great fascination and appreciation for Norway and Sweden. I love the fact that some elements of discrimination between genders are disappearing in these countries, and I’m proud to see this. Men and women working together is the most fantastic blend. I’m not a feminist, I don’t like how its used. We are very different and here they understand how we can work in perfect balance. It is quite an achievement.

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If you have 1 day in Paris, can you recommend our Citizen Femme readers how best to enjoy it like a local. 

Paris is very controversial to me because I was born there. Whenever you are around places constantly, you see the flaws instead of the good things, it’s natural. Having left, I have once again fallen in love with Paris. Now you see the preciousness.

There are so many elements to Paris, that’s the romance. You can have 4 lives in 1. When people get to Paris, the first thing to do is go to one of the brasseries for a coffee, what we call ‘a French breakfast’. Stop at any one of these with little terraces. You may wonder if Parisians actually work, it can’t be full of tourists! But it is actually Parisians sitting there. Before they start their day, Parisians go somewhere and have their coffee and croissant, ‘Paris a la fresh (early morning)’.

My favourite traditional French brasserie (created in the late 1800’s) is La Fontaine de Mars. French table clothes, classic furniture, a seasonal menu featuring classic French food  of stews and foie gras, with an excellent selection of wine. You will be warmly welcomed by the owner Christiane, as if you’ve been going for years. I highly recommend a fine glass of Courvoisier served with dessert, served in small vintage classes from the 1960s, all adding to the experience of a vintage and romantic Parisian feel. There is no particular dress code, and no formalities.

After this, you might want to walk it off a bit through some of my favourite parts of Paris. Walk to St Germain, near Le Quai, La Seine, and to the Louvre. Enjoy a walking tour of Les Beaux Arts, taking you back into another era. If you decide to stop for lunch in St Germain, La Palette is one of the oldest but most typical French restaurants, adorned by grand paintings.

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Take a wander to Le Fouquet’s, Champs-Élysées for some modern luxury. On the corner of avenue George V and the Champs-Elysées, it is THE place to be in Paris and for more than a century has been a popular meeting place for people from the world of cinéma, arts and culture.

Night time is cabaret time! Maxim’s has excellent cabaret singers. Request the special (off-menu) Courvoisier cocktail. Book into see the best Art Nouveau museum upstairs. A guide is recommended as you live through their passion throughout the tour.

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For a night cap, end up in Bar 8 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and you will have 1 very memorable 1 day in Paris.

Try making your own Courvoisier classic cocktail…

Courvoisier Classic Champagne

One brown sugar cube
Add 3 drops of Angostura bitters to it
35ml of Courvoisier VSOP
Top-up with very cold champagne

Served in a chilled coupette if possible

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Find our more about Courvoisier here.

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