Brandy is a staple in any home bar. It is a spirit made from fermented fruit juice and contains anywhere from 35-60% alcohol by volume. Most folks drink it as an after-dinner drink or digestif, but it is wonderful in cooking applications as well.
Here is the skinny, most often brandy is made from grapes, but it can also be made from other fruits and juices. Common types include apple, apricot, peach, cherry, and more. The varieties made from other fruits are known as flavored brandy or au-de-vie.
The process of making brandy varies as I am sure you can imagine. Without going into painful detail, here are the main steps:
Fruit is fermented into wine, and then the wine is distilled into alcohol before it is aged. They transfer the liquid to oak casks or barrels while others are not. The length that it is aged is determined by region, brandy style, legal requirements and so forth.
From there, it is mixed with water to reduce the alcohol content to the desired percentage and bottled. Brandy, unlike many wines, does not improve at all after bottling as a wine would.
This is one spirit you want in your kitchen. It is wonderful for deglazing a pan and for making sauces for meat. Brandy gives soups heartier flavor. You can use it in puddings and mulled wine around the holidays. You can also use it to flambe crepe Suzette, you know if you are into that sort of thing.
The flavor varies on a whole host of things. Factors include what it is made from, how it was aged, how long it was aged, and how it is served.
I like to drink it neat at room temperature in a wine glass or a snifter (the same glass you would use for cognac). This means straight from the bottle and not mixed with anything including ice.
What is the difference between cognac and brandy?
Great question! Cognac is a type of brandy, the French kind to be exact. True champagne can only come from the Champagne region of France and cognac is the same. It must come from the region and strict rules are adhered to when it comes to making it.
Are there other types of brandy?
Sure thing! Armagnac and Calvados are two other types that come from specific regions in France. This genre also includes South American Pisco, Italian grappa, and German kirsch.
What is the best brand for the kitchen?
If a recipe calls for brandy, grab yourself a wine-based brandy that is somewhere in the middle of the road. You want to be able to drink what you cook with should you want a sip here and there.