Also Known As
Brandywine, Brandewijn, Burnt wine
The term Brandy comes from the Dutch word brandewijn, ("burnt wine"), which is how the Dutch traders introduced it to Europe from Southern France and Spain in the 16th century. They described that wine had been burnt/ boiled in order to distill it. It is a spirit made by distilling grapes. It generally contains 36%-60% alcohol by volume and is typically taken as an after-dinner drink.
Brandy is best had at around 16 °C. Some suggest that brandy should be warmed slightly before drinking it. This causes the vapours to become much stronger and the alcohol to become more liquid, an effect many people enjoy. However, since this would end up overpowering the subtle texture of brandy, many advise to treat it like any other wine and drink at room temperature or slightly cool. The various glasses which are used to have brandy are Brandy Balloon, Snifter or tulip glasses. To correctly pour your brandy into a snifter, lay the glass on its side, with the base and the bowl touching the table; pour the brandy till it just reaches the rim.
Brandy can be differentiated as Grape brandy and Fruit Brandy.
Grape Brandy: Grape Brandy is brandy distilled from fermented grape juice or crushed grapes. It is aged in oak casks which gives the brandy its characteristic aroma, colour and flavour. It is best drunk at room temperature. Often it is slightly warmed by holding the glass cupped in the palm. The heat of the palm is said to be enough to warm the brandy. Popular Grape brandy includes Cognac, Armagnac, etc.
Fruit Bandy: Fruit Brandy is the term for all Brandies that are made from fermenting fruit other than grapes. Fruit Brandies, except those made from berries, are generally distilled from fruit wines. The various fruits used to make fruit brandies are apples, berries, pears, plums, cherries, raspberries, blackberries, apricot etc. These fruit brandies usually bear a strong flavor of the fruit they represent and are often strengthened using fruit extracts or sweetening syrups.
They are best drunk chilled or topped with ice cubes. Popular fruit brandies include Kirsch (cherry base), Calvados (apple base), etc.
Cognac: Produced in the Cognac region of France, Cognac is by far one of the most well known brandies in the world. At least 90% of the grapes used must be of the Colombard, Ugni Blanc, or Folle Blance varieties, and it must be distilled in a traditional method using copper pots. Famous Cognac brandy varieties include Hennessy, Rémy Martin, and Courvoisier.
Armagnac: Produced in the Armagnac region of southern France, Armagnac is sought after, second to Cognac. The primary grapes used in making Armagnac are Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche, and Colombard and distillation takes place in the unique alambic Armagnacais, a type of column still. The resulting brandy has to age further so that the rustic flavour mellows. Famous Armagnac brandy varieties include Delord, Laubade, and Baron de Sigognac.
Other regional brandies include Ouzo from Greece, Grappa from Italy, Pisco from Peru etc.
Brandy may or may not be aged in wooden casks. Most pomace brandy and some fruit brandies are not aged before bottling. Thus the resulting brandy is clear and colourless. Some brandies are aged in oak casks which give the brandy a natural brown or golden colour. Some brandies are aged using Solera system or are even coloured with caramel which ape the appearance of barrel ageing.
How to select
Since there are a variety of brandies to choose from, choose wisely. Check for the authenticity seal and the "years of ageing" before purchasing. The name of grapes or fruit used will be mentioned on the bottle, so one can recheck before purchasing. Cognacs, like many brandies, are rated by age: AC is aged in wood for two years; VS is aged for three years and often called three star; VSOP is "very special old pale", aged for five years, and also called five star; XO is aged for six years, and every brandy maker has its own name for this level - 'reserve', 'extra', 'paradis', and so on. Thus, check for these labels while purchasing.
· Brandy is best had on its own, especially during winters. It is served neat or "on the rocks". Various cocktails are prepared along with brandy. Few famous cocktails to name are Brandy Alexander, Brandy Sour and Blackbird.
· Use brandy for flambéed fruit recipes like flambéed apples, flambéed pears etc. Serve them with a fruit sauce, ice cream etc to make a complete dessert.
· Add flavoured brandy in cakes and pie fillings etc which will enhance the flavour of the baked recipe.
· Brandy is used as a common deglazing liquid for making pan sauces for meats etc. Left over "jus" from steaks, grilled meats etc is deglazed with brandy and served as a sauce with grilled meats.
· Brandy is consumed mainly as a digestive too ,mainly after a meal concludes.
How to store
Store brandy bottles upright. The high alcohol content could begin to break down the cork if it is stored on its side, like wine. Store in a cool and dry place.