In this episode, we talk about brandy — a distilled spirit made by distilling wine. You may have heard of Cognac, but what about Armagnac, Pisco, or Stravecchio? How about a few classic brandy cocktails? You learn about all of that and more in Episode #023 – Brandy.
“Claret is the liquor for boys; port for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy.” ― Samuel Johnson
“Hell is full of musical amateurs: music is the brandy of the damned. May not one lost soul be permitted to abstain?” ― George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman
Most Well-Known Varieties of Brandies
The most famous of all, this variety comes from the southwestern region of Cognac in France (funny how that worked out). Double-distilled in pot stills, this is the version that the other varieties are measured up to, and within this family are some of the most expensive bottles in the world of any kind of liquor.
Brandy de Jerez:
From the area surrounding Andalusia, Spain, this strain is also used in some sherries.
The South American spirit is most famous in a Pisco Sour, but is also hilariously included in the Phil Collins cocktail, a relative of the well-known Tom Collins.
Although consider part of the “peasant brandy” family (because while most brandies are made with the juices of the full grapes, while the peasants are made with the skins and other scraps), grappa is a grape liquor distilled in Italy.
Brandy made from apples, the flavor is sweet and pairs very well with whiskey, especially for fall cocktails. The most well-known brand is Laird’s from New Jersey.
Grades of Brandy
These grades only legally apply to Cognac and Armagnac, but other brandies will often use them on the bottles.
- V.S. (“very special”): the youngest brandy in the blend has been stored for at least two years in a cask.
- V.S.O.P. (“very superior old pale”): a blend in which the youngest brandy is stored for at least four years in a cask.
- XO (“extra old”) or “Napoléon”: a blend in which the youngest brandy is stored for at least six years.
- There are older versions, but these are the primary versions. We recommend using at least V.S.O.P. in your cocktails.
Brandy Cocktail Recipes:
Simple and straight-forward. It is sweet, and was, during its heyday, considered an ideal nightcap.
- 1 1/2 oz brandy
- 3/4 oz white crème de menthe (if you use green crème de menthe, you get a Green Hornet).
Pour ingredients into a mixing glass, and stir until blended.
A Prohibition-era classic, this drink can only truly flourish with the freshest of lemon juice.
- 3/4 ounce Cointreau
- 3/4 ounce lemon juice
- 1 1/2 ounces cognac
Shake well and strain into a sugar-rimmed glass.
An apple brandy classic, this drink it sure to be a sweet treat for those new to the joys of brown fruit liquor.
- 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 ounce grenadine
- 2 ounces applejack
A true classic in the Tiki category, this drink takes a while to assemble, but then again, so do most Tiki cocktails. This version taken from Food & Wine’s interpretation of the Trader Vic’s classic. Brandy isn’t necessarily the feature, but it’s certainly in there somewhere.
- 1 1/2 ounces white rum
- 1/2 ounce gin
- 1/2 ounce brandy
- 2 ounces fresh orange juice
- 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 ounce orgeat (almond-flavored syrup)
- 1/2 ounce Amontillado sherry
- 1 mint sprig
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the white rum, gin, brandy, orange and lemon juices and orgeat and shake well. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass and float the Amontillado sherry on top. Garnish with the mint sprig.
Top Ten Most Expensive Spirits In The World by Chilled Magazine: Yup, got a few Cognacs on this list.
Another famous Brandy: singer and star of the early 2000s hit show “Moesha”
Busta Rhymes – Pass The Courvoisier Part II feat. P. Diddy & Pharrell – Courvoisier is a brand of cognac owned by Beam Suntory, produced in Jarnac in the Charente region of France.