Brandy is a sweet liquor that is traditionally enjoyed as an after-dinner digestif
Among the most popular categories of brandy are Cognac, Armagnac, American brandy, and fruit brandy.
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Brandy is typically made by distilling white wine. Applying high temperatures to wine causes its alcohol content to evaporate, creating vapours that cool and collect to form a much more concentrated liquor. This rudimentary brandy is then aged in wooden barrels where it is imbued with rich flavours and its signature deep golden colour.
Though brandy is traditionally associated with white wine grapes, it can actually be made from any fruit or sugar-rich foods. Countries all over the world have their own take on brandy, with French, Spanish, and Portuguese varieties being some of the most well-loved. There are also more unique takes on the liquor, such as Italian grappa made from grape skins and Polish slivovitz made from plums.
- Brandy has some antibacterial properties due to its high alcohol content and is commonly used as a home remedy for coughs and colds
- The most expensive bottle of brandy in the world is the Henry IV Dudognon Heritage Cognac Grande Champagne, bearing a £1.2 million price tag
- In the 1600s, Brandy was used to create some of the world’s first thermometers before being replaced by mercury
- Near enough any sugary food can be distilled and turned into brandy, with grapes, apples, raspberries, honey, corn, and potatoes being just a few of the most frequently used ingredients
The origins of Brandy can be traced back to 14th century France, where alchemists fermented and distilled fruits to create medicinal tonics. Due to their healing properties, these spirits became known as eaux de vie or “water of life” – a name that has stuck to this day.
A more modern form of brandy appeared in the early 1600s as merchants began trading overseas. On arriving to France, Dutch wine exporters discovered that their stocks became undrinkable over the course of their journey. In order to preserve their wine, they began to distil it and thus created a clear fruit brandy.
This clear spirit only became recognisable by today’s standards following a very lucky accident. A delay in shipping meant that several barrels of eaux de vie were left to mature for much longer than usual and therefore took on a deep shade amber and rich, sweet flavours.
To this day, brandy remains a popular drink adorning dinner tables as a digestif around the world.
When should I drink Brandy?
Brandy can be enjoyed at any time of day but is commonly regarded as an after-dinner digestif.
How do I drink brandy?
Brandy is traditionally served at room temperature in a snifter, tulip, or wine glass.
Can I cook with Brandy?
Brandy is often used in cooking to bring flavour to sauces and soups or to execute an impressive flambé.
It is most famously used to set alight Christmas Puddings and works extremely well in many different desserts.
Are brandy and cognac the same?
An important mantra to remember: all cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is cognac.
Cognac is simply a type of brandy that is produced in one of France’s six Cognac regions: Grande Champagne, Petite champagne, Borderies, Fins Bois, Bons Bois, and Bois Ordinaires.