Working for an African American media company, I have google alerts for the words “African American.” And though I don’t always sift through all of the e-mails, today I decided to see what the internet had to say about black folk. And Slate wanted to let the world know that “African-Americans have been drinking cognac for a lot longer than you think.” Honestly, my immediate reaction was a side eye. Like what?! I was sincerely hoping this wasn’t some article promoting the idea that black people are lushes who just can’t get enough of cognac.

But instead, what I found was the decades-long, historical relationship black people have had over the years. And it didn’t start with Busta Rhymes talkin’ ’bout “Pass the Courvoisier.” Slate reported that while Cognac is produced in France, the country actually exports 97 percent of it. And the biggest consumer of the drink are Americans, with a large percentage of those people being black Americans.

The cognac connection with blacks started 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.”

But the love of Cognac continued after the soldiers returned home. In America, the common liquor option was whiskey, a drink that appealed to southern nationalism as brands were often named after Confederate leaders. Even the liquor sought to send a message of exclusion, so it’s no wonder African Americans sought another option.

Then in the ’50’s cognac was the first spirit advertised in Ebony and Jet magazines, Hennessy to be exact.

But by the ’90’s the drink’s popularity began to wane as people started associating it with an older crowd. Then in 2001, “Pass the Courvoisier” changed the game and rappers started working with different brands, increasing US sales of the drink.

From there, Slate says that the spirit has conflicting public images: “the snooty Frenchman [and] the blinged out rapper.” (See Jay-Z drinking the beverage straight out of his Grammy from this year.) Where other brands (looking at you Cristal) have turned their nose up at their products being associated with Hip Hop, cognac has seemed to take a more inclusive approach.

Well, you learn something new everyday. Are you a fan of cognac, did you know why African Americans had such a history with this drink?

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