Brandy takes it's name from the Dutch word brandewijn which means "burned wine" and is distilled from wine or other fermented fruit juices. Most brandy is 80 proof. When choosing brandy you should not solely base your decision on price because a low-quality brandy can ruin an otherwise grand cocktail.
To make brandy, first the fruit is fermented into wine which is then distilled into alcohol. Once the distillation process is finished the aging process begins, which is the key to differentiate both the quality and variety of the brandy. The type of oak used in a cask can determine if the outcome is Cognac or Armagnac. The final step in brandy production is to blend the liquor to the distiller’s taste.
Brandy has a rating system to describe its quality and condition, these indicators can usually be found near the brand name on the label.
• A.C.- aged 2 years in wood.
• V.S.- "Very Special" or 3-Star, aged at least 3 years in wood.
• V.S.O.P.- "Very Superior Old Pale" or 5-Star, aged at least 5 years in wood.
• X.O.- "Extra Old", Napoleon or Vieille Reserve, aged at least 6 years, Napoleon at least 4 years.
• Vintage- Stored in the cask until the time it is bottled with the label showing the vintage date.
• Hors D'age: These are too old to determine the age.
Below are three simple brandy recipes perfect for the autumn weather.
1 oz Brandy
1 oz white Creme de Cacao
1 oz Light cream
Shake all ingredients (except nutmeg) with ice and strain contents into a cocktail glass. Sprinkle nutmeg on top and serve.
4 fresh Mint sprigs
1 tsp Sugar
1 oz Club soda
2 1/2 oz Brandy
1 Orange slice
1 Maraschino cherry
In an old-fashioned glass, muddle the mint sprigs with the sugar and club soda. Fill the glass with ice. Add the brandy. Stir well and garnish with the orange slice and the cherry.
1 1/2 oz Lime juice
1 tsp Sugar
2 oz Brandy
1 dash Bitters
3 oz Club soda
In a shaker half-filled with ice, combine lime juice, sugar, brandy, and bitters. Shake for 30 seconds. Almost fill a collins glass with crushed ice and stir until glass is frosted. Strain mixture in the shaker into the glass and top with club soda.