Brandy

Brandy

Brandy is often served as an after-dinner drink, or added to coffee. According to legend, it was first produced when an enterprising sea captain distilled wine in order to save space on his ship. He planned to reconstitute it with water when he arrived at his home port, but those who sampled the new concoction liked it just the way it was.


Today, most brandy is distilled from white wine, though red wine and other fermented fruit juices are also used. It's then aged in oak barrels for several years.


To get substitutions for brandy in general, click here.


Varieties:


There are two highly regarded French brandies: cognac and the slightly drier Armagnac. California also produces many fine brandies that are similar to cognac. Metaxa is a strong Greek brandy that tastes of resin. Spanish brandy is based on sherry, and is heavier and sweeter than French brandy. Apple brandy is distilled from apple cider, while pear brandy is made from pear cider. Fruit brandies are distilled from the fruit itself, instead of fruit juices.

apple brandy
apple brandy
This exquisite brandy has a soft apple fragrance. Calvados = calva (cal-VAH-dohs) is the French version, applejack = apple jack is the inferior American version. Calvados is ranked much like cognac. The very best Calvados are labeled Napoleon, Extra Old (XO), Extra, or Hors D'Age. After that comes VSOP, Vieille Reserve, or VO. Next come Vieux or Reserve Calvados, then those with three stars or three apples on their labels.
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apricot brandy
This is distilled from apricot juice. Brands include the French Abricotine, and the Hungarian Barack Pálinka.
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Armagnac
Armagnac
This French brandy is similar to cognac, but with a more pronounced flavor. Since their quality varies, Armagnac brandies don't share cognac's exalted reputation, but a good Armagnac compares favorably with any cognac.
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brandy
brandy
Brandy is often served as an after-dinner drink, or added to coffee. According to legend, it was first produced when an enterprising sea captain distilled wine in order to save space on his ship. He planned to reconstitute it with water when he arrived at his home port, but those who sampled the new concoction liked it just the way it was. Today, most brandy is distilled from white wine, though red wine and other fermented fruit juices are also used. It's then aged in oak barrels for several years. To learn about different varieties of brandy, click here.
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cachaça
cachaça
This sugarcane brandy is made in Brazil, where the name means "burning water." Velho Barreto is a well-regarded brand.
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cognac
cognac
The very best cognacs are labeled VVSOP, Napoleon, Vieille Reserve, Grand Reserve, Royal, or Vieux. Next in the rankings are cognacs labeled Extra Old (XO), Extra, or Hors D'Age. After that comes VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale), Reserve, or VO. Next come cognacs with VS or *** on their labels. Connoisseurs also check for the cru, or place where the cognac was made. The best crus are Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne.
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framboise
framboise
This is a clear French fruit brandy that's made with raspberries. Don't confuse this with framboise liqueur, which is sweeter, or with framboise syrup, which is a non-alcoholic raspberry flavoring.
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fruit brandies
fruit brandies
While other brandies are distilled from fruit juice, fruit brandies are distilled from the entire fruit--skins, pits, and all. They're usually colorless, and fairly high in alcohol. Varieties include apricot brandy, plum brandy, kirschwasser (cherries), framboise (raspberries), fraise (strawberries), grappa (grapes), pisco (Muscatel grapes), mure (blackberries), and myrtille (bilberries). Don't confuse fruit brandies with the cheaper and cloyingly sweet fruit-flavored brandies.
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fruit-flavored brandy
fruit-flavored brandy
This is brandy that has fruit flavoring and coloring added. Don't confuse these sweet liqueurs with the more elegant and expensive fruit brandy, which is distilled from whole fruit
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grappa
grappa
This potent and somewhat harsh drink is made from the grape residue, called pomace, that's left over from making brandy. It's traditionally been thought of as a second-rate eau de vie, but some producers have developed premium grappas that are quite smooth and very pricey. Grappa is the Italian version, marc the French, aguardiente the Spanish, testerbranntwein the German, and bagaceira the Portuguese.
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kirsch
kirsch
This colorless cherry brandy is made primarily in Germany. French kirsch isn't quite as dry.
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marc
marc
Marc is a French brandy made from the leftovers of wine making.
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Metaxa
Metaxa
This is a sweet Greek brandy with a strong resin flavor.
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pear brandy
pear brandy
Brandy made from Williams pears (like Poire Williams and Williamine) are especially good. Some bottles have an entire pear in the bottle.
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pisco
pisco
This Peruvian brandy is based on Muscat wine.
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plum brandy
plum brandy
Distilled from plums, plum brandy is usually colorless and quite potent. Slivovitz = slivovic = slivowitz ( SHLIV-uh-vits) is made in Serbia and Bosnia from blue plums, and is very highly regarded. Other varieties include mirabelle (made with yellow plums), quetsch (Alsatian plums), pflümli, and light green prunelle.
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Spanish brandy
Spanish brandy
This sweet and heavy brandy is based on sherry.
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