Brandy can seem a mystery, a rarely used spirit, but its fruit flavors and citrus zest make for a unique spirit that is simply misunderstood and left on the shelf.
What is Brandy?
Brandy is a liquor that results from distilling wine, with a caramel hue as a result of being aged in wooden casks, though some include artificial coloring to achieve this look. It's typically enjoyed as a digestif in after-dinner cocktails, either sipped at room temperature in a snifter or mixed into a brandy cocktail, such as a Brandy Alexander.
How to Drink It
Despite being a liquor of mystery, there are several ways to enjoy brandy.
Its flavors mix well with apple, chocolate, cream, raisin, and vanilla profiles. While this could seem limiting or complicated, you can also enjoy brandy in a snifter or rocks glass as you get more comfortable, carefully tasting the notes and observing the subtleties of different types of brandy. You don't need to reserve sipping brandy for after dinner, you can also enjoy this with your meal or anytime you'd enjoy a cocktail.
It isn't a mystery of what to mix with brandy once you become accustomed to the flavor profile. Consider adding it to some freshly brewed coffee or mixing it with coffee liquor over ice. Either can be made a touch richer by adding a splash of cream. If coffee isn't for you, feel free to skip the coffee entirely and try hot chocolate or opt for just brandy and cream.
Soda is also an option, as ginger ale or ginger beer, cola, cream soda, and lemon-lime soda all make a great cocktail when stirred with brandy. Or allow the brandy to shine and use a plain seltzer. If you want something a bit different but still fizzy, sparkling wine such as prosecco or Champagne is a fantastic combination.
You don't need to run to the store for mixers, either. You can shake up brandy with lemonade, tea, and orange juice, or even sweet and sour mix. If you have amaretto on hand, this also pairs well with brandy -- orange liqueur especially so.
You may struggle to produce the name of any brandy cocktail, but there are quite a few that fly stealthily under the radar but are well worth a try.
For those that love whiskey, consider a brandy old-fashioned, made the same way as a traditional old-fashioned but with brandy instead of bourbon or rye.
A tasty cocktail similar to a daiquiri in which both are rooted in sour profiled cocktails, the sidecar is nothing more than brandy, orange liqueur, and lime juice. It does, however, have an extravagant garnish with a sugar rim and orange twist garnish.
Perhaps one of the more recognizable cocktails, the brandy daisy first appeared in the 1800s. The drink has evolved over the years, spawning several daisy riffs, but today the drink is made up of brandy, yellow chartreuse, and lemon juice, which is served in a coupe or martini glass, garnished with fresh berries and mint.
A dessert-style cocktail, the Brandy Alexander is a creamy, chocolate-style martini. It skips the vodka in favor of brandy and includes brown creme de cacao and cream, which is shaken up and served in a martini glass with grated nutmeg. For a flashier version, consider using ice cream, as well.
Brandy is a familiar spirit, even if you don't know it yet. Consider trying brandy when you'd usually use bourbon, or make a brandy spritzer by starting with sparkling wine and grapefruit juice. Unfamiliar spirits are just a new favorite cocktail you haven't met yet.