Brandy

Get cozy with a glass of brandy! This drink is made from wine and aged for taste and is great for cold nights. Explore our guide to Brandy types, brands, cocktails, history, and more.
Three glasses with brandy on a white surface with a palm branch shade.

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Brandy isn’t just your granddad’s favorite sipper. It has history, sophistication, and stories that could fill a book or two. Want to know more about this age-old beverage and what makes it tick? Pour yourself a glass, and let’s chat.

What is Brandy?

Brandy is liquor distilled from wine or fermented fruit juice. The name “brandy” comes from the Dutch word “brandewijn,” meaning “burnt wine,” referring to the process of distillation. It has a rich golden or amber color, although there are also clear brandies. It has a sweet, fruity, and woody flavor profile, varying depending on the base ingredient, aging process, and other factors.

A glass of brandy with ice next to a bottle, on a wooden barrel with a rope, against a dark background.

Why we like Brandy

We enjoy brandy because of the diverse flavors it brings! For instance, Rémy Martin is incredibly smooth and fruity, perfect for us after dinner. It’s awesome that we can use it in cocktails, like the tasty Brandy Alexander. The variety is a big plus for us. Whether we’re in the mood for something bold like Torres or smooth like Christian Brothers, there’s a brandy for everyone. Learning about the traditions and craftsmanship behind brandy makes our experience even more enriching!

Different Types of Brandy

Here are some of the most common types:

Armagnac

Armagnac comes from Gascony, France, and it has a rich and bold flavor with notes of plum and prune. It’s made by a unique distillation process and aged in different wood casks, giving it a complex taste.

Cognac

Cognac is a smooth and high-quality liquor from the Cognac region in France. It’s made from particular grapes and aged in French oak barrels for at least two years, but often much longer, making it rich and complex.

Pisco

Pisco is a clear brandy from Peru and Chile. It’s made from distilled grape wine, and its flavor can be smooth and sweet or strong and bold. It’s the main ingredient in a cocktail called Pisco Sour.

Calvados

Calvados is made from apples, and sometimes pears, in Normandy. It has a range of apple flavors, from sweet to tart, and is aged in oak barrels, adding to its richness and aroma.

Two glasses of Calvados brandy on a balcony with red apples, with a blurred village scene on the background.

American Brandy

American Brandy can come from many different fruits and doesn’t have strict rules about how it’s made. It’s usually sweet and warm, thanks to being aged in oak barrels.

Eau-de-Vie

Eau-de-Vie is a clear, light spiritmade from fruits like apples, pears, and berries. It’s usually enjoyed after a meal because of its fresh and crisp taste.

Grappa

Grappa is an Italian spirit made from the leftovers of wine-making, like grape seeds and stems. It has a strong grape flavor and can be aged to be smoother or left clear and robust.

Spanish Brandy

This type is velvety and comes mainly from Jerez, Penedés, and La Mancha in Spain. It uses a system that mixes different brandy ages, creating a balanced and harmonious flavor with notes of nuts, dried fruit, and spices.

Slivovitz

Slivovitz, from the Balkans, mainly made from Damson plums. It has a robust and sharp plum flavor and is often enjoyed during regional celebrations.

Palinka

Palinka, from Hungary, is strong and made from different fruits like plums, apricots, and cherries. People usually drink it neat to enjoy the bold fruit flavors fully.

How Does Brandy Taste?

Brandy offers a fruity and slightly sweet flavor. It often includes hints of oak because it is usually aged in wooden barrels. The taste grows smoother and more layered with age. It’s unaged if it’s less than two years old and mature if it’s over two years old.

How much alcohol is in Brandy?

Brandy has an Alcohol by Volume (ABV) ranging from 35% to 60%, translating to 70 to 120 proof.

Vodka, gin, rum, whiskey, and tequila generally have ABVs ranging from 40% to 50%, making them roughly comparable to brandy. However, liqueurs and fortified wines like port and sherry are less strong, featuring ABVs from 15% to 30%.

Is there a brandy substitute?

You can use whiskey, bourbon, rum, or cognac for a similar taste. Sherry, port, Madeira, or Marsala wine are good alternatives for cooking. For a non-alcoholic option, use apple or grape juice or a mix of apple cider or white grape juice with lemon juice. In baking, brandy, vanilla, or almond extract can be substituted.

Top Best Brandy Brands

Hennessy

Hennessy comes from France and is famous for its smooth and consistent taste. Many consider it a premium choice for its refined flavors, and it’s one of the most recognized brands globally.

Rémy Martin

Rémy Martin, another French brand, is renowned for its rich and high-quality flavor profiles. It often features fruity notes and a smooth finish.

A bottle of Rémy Martin VSOP cognac next to a cocktail glass with an orange slice, on a bar with blurred bottles in the background.

Courvoisier

Courvoisier offers a unique and fine-quality taste. Originating from France, this brand is known for its smooth texture and is often associated with luxury and high quality.

Martell

Martell, one of the oldest brandy houses, produces smooth and refined brandies. It has a reputation for quality and offers a range of brandies, each with its unique taste.

E&J

E&J, an American brand, is both popular and affordable. It has a sweet and pleasant flavor, making it a good choice for those new to brandy.

St-Rémy

St-Rémy, from France, is known for creating high-quality brandies that are fruity and well-balanced. It’s a well-liked brand for its quality and flavor.

Asbach

Asbach is a German brand valued for its refined and smooth flavor. It’s well-respected and has a loyal following for its consistent quality.

Torres

Torres, originating from Spain, produces bold and robust flavored brandies. It has a diverse range, each offering distinctive tastes, and is especially popular for its rich flavor profiles.

Paul Masson

Paul Masson, from the United States, offers flavorful and affordable brandies. It’s suitable for those who want good quality at a reasonable price.

Christian Brothers

Christian Brothers is known for its smooth texture and budget-friendly prices. It’s a go-to choice for many looking for a reliable and accessible brandy.

Where to buy Brandy online?

Several reputable shops are available:

Total Wine & More

Total Wine & More is a user-friendly online store offering many brandies. They pride themselves on providing extensive options, from affordable to premium brands. The website is straightforward, allowing customers to browse, select, and purchase easily. They offer detailed descriptions of each brand, helping buyers make informed decisions. Their service is reliable, and they deliver promptly to many locations.

Drizly

Drizly is a popular online liquor store specializing in fast deliveries. It operates by partnering with local liquor stores to deliver your chosen bottle of brandy straight to your door, often within an hour. The website is clean and easy to navigate, making it simple to find exactly what you are looking for. Drizly offers a variety of brands suiting different tastes and budgets.

Wine.com

Wine.com isn’t just about wine; it also offers a diverse range of spirits, including brandy. The website is well-organized, and users can easily browse many brandy options. The platform provides comprehensive information on each product, ensuring customers know what they are purchasing.

How much does Brandy cost – Price Ranges

Brandy comes in a wide range of prices, from budget-friendly to extremely high-end. An overview of what you can expect:

  • Affordable Options

You can still find a good bottle when you’re on a budget. For example, E&J and Christian Brothers offer bottles that usually cost between $10 and $20. These brands are known for providing smooth and flavorful brandy without breaking the bank. They are a great place to start if you are new to brandy and don’t want to spend too much.

  • Mid-Range Choices

Several mid-range options are available for those willing to spend a bit more. Brands like Paul Masson and St-Rémy offer brandies between $20 and $50 per bottle. These brandies often have a more refined flavor profile, making them suitable for sipping and mixing in cocktails.

  • Premium Selections

If you’re looking for something more upscale, premium brands like Hennessy and Rémy Martin have offerings that usually start around $50 and can go up significantly. These premium brandies are renowned for their exquisite and sophisticated flavors and are often enjoyed neat or on the rocks to savor the experience truly.

  • Extremely High-End

For the ultimate indulgence, some brandies can cost several hundred or even thousands of dollars per bottle, like Louis XIII by Rémy Martin. These extremely high-end brandies are produced in limited quantities and are sought after for their exceptional quality and unique, intricate flavors.

Brandy age Labels (Cognac)

Look for specific abbreviations on the bottle label to read the age labels on cognac. The abbreviation “VS” means Very Special, meaning that the youngest eau-de-vie in the blend is at least two years old. “VSOP” stands for Very Superior Old Pale, meaning the youngest eau-de-vie in the blend is at least four years old. “XO” stands for Extra Old, indicating that the youngest eau-de-vie in the blend is at least ten, although it often signifies a much older age. “Hors d’Age”, meaning Beyond Age, is a term used for cognacs even older than XO; however, the exact age is not specified. Remember that these labels show the minimum age of the youngest eau-de-vie in the blend, not the average age.

How to drink Brandy?

Brandy is a versatile drink you can enjoy in many ways! Whether you like it straight, over ice, or in a cool cocktail, there’s a way.

  • Enjoying it Neat

Many brandy lovers prefer to enjoy their drink neat, meaning without any mixers, ice, or water. This method allows you to savor the full range of brandy flavors. Holding the glass by the stem is best to avoid warming the spirit with your hand when drinking it neat.

A person in a dress shirt pours amber-colored brandy from a crystal decanter into a glass against a dark background.

  • On the Rocks

If you find brandy too strong, you might enjoy it on the rocks, meaning over ice. This method dilutes the spirit slightly and cools it, creating a milder flavor. High-quality ice that melts slowly is ideal to avoid watering down the brandy too quickly.

  • Mixing it Up

Brandy also shines in cocktails. A classic Sidecar, for example, combines brandy with orange liqueur and lemon juice, giving a refreshing and flavorful drink.

Popular Brandy cocktails

Sidecar

The Sidecar is an excellent, classic drink that mixes brandy, orange liqueur, and lemon juice. It’s super refreshing and has a nice citrusy taste, perfect for hanging out with friends!

A side shot of a Sidecar cocktail in a cocktail glass on a wooden board placed on a white marmol table with a red cloth, four sugar cubes, two lemons, a jigger, and a shaker around.

 

Brandy Alexander

People love the Brandy Alexander because it’s creamy and sweet. It has brandy, crème de cacao, and cream, often with a sprinkle of nutmeg on top. It’s like a dessert in a glass!

Two Brandy Alexander with cacao creme in a coupe glass on a wooden tray with a jigger on a side placed on a wooden table.

Stinger

If you like mint, the Stinger is for you! It’s just brandy and white crème de menthe mixed. It’s usually had after dinner and is super refreshing and cool.

A side shot of a Stinger cocktail in a coupe glass on a coaster placed on a green cloth, in front of a light green wall and plant leaves.

Metropolitan

The Metropolitan is another sweet drink. It combines brandy, sweet vermouth, simple syrup, and a little bit of bitters. It’s balanced and easy to enjoy.

Brandy Daisy

The Brandy Daisy is fun and colorful! It’s made with lemon juice, and grenadine. It’s often served with a cherry and a twist of lemon on top, so it looks as good as it tastes!

B&B

The B&B is simple but tasty. It’s made with brandy and Benedictine liqueur, usually served over ice. It’s smooth and has a nice aroma.

Between the Sheets

Between the Sheets is a vibrant drink that mixes light rum, triple sec, and lemon juice. It’s fruity and exciting, perfect for a party!

A side shot of a Between the Sheets cocktail in a cocktail glass on a wooden tray placed on a white cloth with a jigger, 3 lemon pieces, a knife, and a lemon twist around,on a black background.

French Connection

The French Connection is all about elegance. It’s just brandy and amaretto, giving it a sweet and nutty flavor. It’s usually enjoyed neat; no ice is needed!

A glass of a French Connection cocktail with ice on a wooden surface.

Brandy Sour

The Brandy Sour is a sweet and sour treat, mixing brandy, lemon juice, and simple syrup. It usually comes garnished with a cherry and an orange slice, adding flavor and color.

Horse’s Neck

The Horse’s Neck is a unique mix of brandy, ginger ale, and a few dashes of bitters, garnished with a long lemon peel. It’s zesty and spicy.

A side shot of an Horse's Neck cocktail in highball glass on a black stone coaster placed on a orange cloth on a white table surrounded by ginger pieces, orange pieces, a jigger, and a bar spoon.

Related: 40 Easy Mixed Drinks to Make at Home

What are the ingredients of Brandy?

Brandy is crafted using just fruit and water as its fundamental ingredients.

  • Main Ingredient: Fruit

The main ingredient in brandy is fruit! Most brandies are made from grapes, but you can also find brandies made from apples, pears, cherries, or other fruits. For example, Calvados is a type made from apples.

  • Final Touch: Water

Before bottling, water is often added to the brandy to adjust its strength. This is important to ensure every bottle has the right balance and hits the spot just right!

How is Brandy made?

Making brandy is turning simple fruit into a tasty drink through a few special steps:

1. Choosing the Fruit

First off, making brandy starts with choosing the right fruit. Most brandies come from grapes, but some use apples, pears, or even cherries. The type of fruit chosen can impact the flavor, like how apple brandy (Calvados) will taste different from grape brandy.

2. Fermentation

Next up is fermentation. The chosen fruit is crushed to extract the juice, which is then allowed to ferment. This is when yeast is added, turning the sugars from the fruit into alcohol. It’s like the fruit juice is getting ready to become brandy!

3. Distillation

After fermentation, we move on to distillation. This means the alcoholic liquid is heated until it turns into vapor and then cooled back into a liquid. This step is super important because it strengthens the alcohol and brings out the flavor.

4. Aging in Barrels

Here comes the patience part—aging! To mature, the brandy is placed in wooden barrels, usually made of oak. During this time, the brandy gains its color and develops deeper flavors. Some brandies may age for a few years, while others might chill in the barrel for decades!

Wooden barrels lined up in a dark cellar, used for aging brandy.

5. Adding Water and Bottling

Lastly, water is sometimes added before it’s ready to be enjoyed to ensure it has the right balance and strength. After this, the brandy is bottled up.

Food Pairing

Brandy is a great partner for many foods. Think about citrus fruits like oranges and lemons. When you have them with brandy, they make a lively and bright mix.

If you like spicy foods, brandy works well. Its sweet and warm taste goes well with spicy foods like hot wings and spicy pasta. It helps balance the heat and brings more flavor to the food.

Brandy is great with roasted duck and grilled pork if you prefer savory dishes. The taste of the meat goes well with the smooth taste of the spirit, making the meal even more flavorful.

Grilled pork chop on a wooden board with brandy and bruschetta.

Love sweets? Brandy, especially older ones, goes great with sweet things like chocolate cake and caramel pudding.

And don’t forget about salty snacks. The smooth taste of brandy and the saltiness of snacks like almonds and olives make a well-balanced and tasty combo.

Nutritional Facts

The USDA supplies the nutritional data for a single shot of brandy, which weighs 42 grams or 1.5 ounces. Here’s a table summarizing the nutritional facts:

Nutrient Amount Unit
Calories 97 kcal
Fat 0 g
Carbohydrates 0 g
Sugar 0 g
Protein 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 0 mg
Alcohol Content 14 %

(Please note that the nutritional content can vary slightly based on the brand and specific formulation. Always refer to the product label for the most accurate information).

History and Origin

People in ancient places like Egypt and Greece made brandy mainly as medicine. They would boil wine and collect the strong liquid that formed from it. This technique reached Western Europe through the Moors.

In the 1500s, the Dutch made brandy to keep wine good for longer during long trips on the sea. This made it easier to trade as it could be mixed with water to make wine again.

As time passed, makers learned to store brandy in wooden barrels to make it taste better. Nowadays, many countries make their own types of brandy, with France being famous for its cognac.

FAQs

  1. Is Brandy sweet? Brandy can be sweet, semi-sweet, or dry, depending on the type and the producer.
  2. How long is Brandy aged? Aging varies, ranging from two years to several decades.
  3. What is the difference between Cognac and Brandy? Cognac is a type of brandy made in the Cognac region of France under strict regulations.
  4. Is Brandy gluten-free? Yes, as the distillation process removes gluten proteins.
  5. Can Brandy go bad? An opened bottle does expire, while unopened it has an almost-indefinite shelf life when stored properly.
  6. How should Brandy be stored? In a cool, dark place, upright to prevent the cork from drying out.
  7. Should Brandy be refrigerated? It is not necessary but can be refrigerated if preferred chilled.
  8. Does Brandy have health benefits? It may have certain health benefits when consumed in moderation due to its antioxidant content.
  9. Is Brandy a digestif? Yes, brandy is often consumed after a meal as a digestif to aid digestion.
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