So, turns out there's more to Busta Rhymes's "Pass The Courvoisier" than Monique punching him and Jamie Foxx's booty bounce (4:47 people); the rapper also helped further a Courvoisier revolution. Though this isn't new information to most Black Americans — anyone else attended a black event, asked for whiskey and received a confused face from the bartender? — Slate's "Pass The Courvoisier" article on the history of how cognac became popular is.
Cognac's relationship with African-American consumers started later, when black soldiers stationed in southwest France were introduced to it during both world wars. The connection between cognac producers and black consumers was likely bolstered by the arrival of black artists and musicians like Josephine Baker, who filled Paris clubs with jazz and blues during the interwar years, according to Dr. Emory Tolbert, a history professor at Howard University. France appreciated these distinctive art forms before the U.S. did, continuing a French tradition dating back to Alexis de Tocqueville of understanding aspects of American culture better than Americans did. For African-Americans, the elegant cognac of a country that celebrated their culture instead of marginalizing it must have tasted sweet. Back in the states, the more common option was whiskey, a spirit made by companies that named brands after Confederate leaders or appealed to southern nationalism with labels such as Rebel Yell. It's no wonder many African-Americans found that cognac left a better taste in their mouths.
Now I'm reconsidering my affection for whiskey …
Around the same time blacks discovered cognac, the French found scotch, leaving their local cognac industry in need of new clients. African Americans were a natural niche and by the 1950s Hennessy began running ads in magazines like Ebony and Jet, and so it began. Years later, the drink joined the lexicon of MC's like Busta Rhymes and its popularity was revitalized. Jay-Z even has his own cognac brand called D'USSÉ. Now, companies like Martell sponsor an American Blues Festival in Cognac, France, and Hennessy will show a photo series by famed photographer Jonathan Mannion in Cognac this fall.
Hey, I don't love cognac, but I have to respect the drink.