Brandy & Cognac
Bring fall flavors to your favorite cocktails with our assortment of brandy.
Brandy is one of our favorite categories. It's broad with many types, flavors, and traditions. It's narrow with highly proscribed rules to qualify as certain sub-categories like Cognac. It's simple and unpretentious as an old moonshiner's favorite, using the leftover scraps of the harvest. It's complex and sophisticated with layered tasting notes for sub-categories like Armagnac. It is many things to many people, and for us it's essential for the adventurous cocktailers home bar.
What is brandy?
Brandy is a distilled spirit made from fruit juice or fruit pomace. The name comes from the Dutch "brandewijn" meaning "burned wine". They are typically aged in oak which imparts flavors and reddish color.
The most popular are made from grapes, including well-known varieties like Cognac and Armagnac from France. But fruit brandies like apple, pear and plum are also enjoyed. Brandy typically contains 35-60% alcohol by volume.
What are the different types of brandy?
Popular classifications of brandy include:
- Fruit - Made from other fruits besides grapes, like apples, pears, plums, peaches, or berries.
- Grape - Made from grape juice or pomace including well-known Cognac, Armagnac, American and Greek varieties.
- Vintage - Branded and bottled after aging for a specific number of years.
- Pomace - Made by fermenting and distilling grape skins, pits and stems left from winemaking.
- Lees - Distilled from the yeast sediment left on wine barrels after fermentation.
How is brandy made?
Production begins with fermenting fruit juice or fruit pomace into a wine. Common fruits include grapes, apples, pears, berries, peaches, plums.
The fruit wine is then distilled at least once in a pot still, column still or combination of both. This raises the alcohol percentage and concentrates the fruit aroma and flavors. The raw distillate can be aged in oak barrels for years to smooth and mellow the spirit. Oak aging also imparts tannins, vanilla and caramel notes through evaporation and oxidation.
For fruit brandies, common aging periods are 2-3 years in fairly small oak casks. The finest grape brandies age for decades in the smallest barrels to maximize wood contact.
How should I drink brandy?
Sipping from a snifter glass, it is ideally enjoyed slowly at room temperature to allow its aromas and flavors to shine.
Fruit brandies tend to work well in a variety of mixed drinks, pairing nicely with fruit juices or soda. Grape brandies like Cognac are better showcased in simple stirred cocktails. Aging quality makes a big difference. Young fruit brandies mix easily while old cognacs deserve sipping neat. Adding a few drops of water can help open up aromas.
How does brandy taste, smell and look?
It offers layered scents and tastes that reflect both the fruit and any oak aging. Grapes tend to impart floral, peppery notes while fruits like apple and pear show more bright orchard character.
On the palate, elegant yet intense fruit mixes with vanilla, baking spice, leather, candied citrus and dried fruit flavors from aging.
Fine brandies coat the mouth with a supple, smooth texture and long finish. Color ranges from crystal clear for unaged to rich mahogany for aged grape brandy. Nosing the glass allows aromas to blossom before sipping. Take time with small sips to experience subtle flavors as they evolve and fade - the hallmark of well-aged spirit.
How do I mix brandy into amazing cocktails?
Brandy's fruit character shines through in imaginative cocktails. Here are some mixing tips:
- Pair younger fruit brandy with matching fruits - pear, peach, cherry, etc.
- Try older expressions in spirit-forward cocktails like Sidecars, Manhattans or Sazeracs.
- Shake with gin or vodka for added complexity.
- Blend with chocolate or coffee liqueurs to highlight oak aging notes.
- Substitute for bourbon in classic autumn cocktails featuring apple and maple.
- Use in seasonal punches paired with citrus, tea, spices and berries.
What is the history of brandy?
Crude forms of distilled wine originated as early as the 12th century through alchemy experiments. The technique spread through monasteries and medicine as distillation improved.
In warmer climates like Greece and Spain, distilling wine helped prevent spoilage. Dutch traders began referring to distillates from France's Charente region as "brandewijn" in the 16th century. Regulations emerged in the 1700s defining production areas in France and Spain. Advances like pot stills and oak barrel aging refined the spirits into forms resembling modern brandy.
The phylloxera epidemic in the 1800s devastated vineyards, forcing evolving standards like France's AOC rules to protect small producers. Global brandy popularity peaked following the World Wars. But its perception as an old-fashioned spirit has required innovation, spurring the craft distilling boom and new interest in vintage and single estate brandies.
Why shop Curiada's selection of brandy?
We focus on small batch craft brandies that express unique stories and terroir. Our collection lets you taste how base ingredients and production methods influence flavor.
As fall harvest season rolls along, give some of these brandies a try to give your cocktail game a bit of seasonal flavor.
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