Just like everyone else you’ve been stuck inside for months and, even though you may be venturing out now, you’re still probably spending most of your time at home. And that means that you’re most likely still making cocktails at home getting the hang of your home bar.
And that means there’s not better time to expand your horizons to a Spirit that gets short shrift - Brandy!
What’s Brandy?It’s an umbrella term for anything distilled from Wine. So, Cognac, Armagnac, Korbel, and all the many variations across the world are Brandies. Some people even use it more generally for anything distilled from fruit which might include Grappa and things like “Apple Brandy.”
Those other fruit Brandies were loved and distilled by many of the people who first came to the U.S. including George Washington. But we’ll stick with the classic definition and focus on Brandies made with Wine. Generally Brandies are also aged in wooden casks which not only gives them that fantastic caramel colorization but a distinct complexity.
The Brandy CocktailCocktails arguably started with Brandy. First because wherever you have Wine, you have Brandy and, wherever you have Brandy someone is tinkering with it. But if we want to be strict with history then the origin story of Brandy in cocktails goes back to New Orleans in the early 19th Century.
The Crescent City was a center for trade from Europe and Africa, a melange of cultures and cuisines. Brandy was a major European export, especially into the then French city so it showed up in a variety of drinks.
Because Brandy follows Wine, most of today’s U.S. production is in California but it has hardly always been there. Among many other early records we can find New Mexico making Brandy in the 17th Century. Which is all to say that Brandy and the cocktails made from it follow different paths.
Take the Wisconsin example: The most popular cocktail in Wisconsin is the Brandy Old Fashioned. I’ve heard that most of California based Korbel’s production goes straight to Wisconsin because Wisconsoners have grown up with it. If you don’t believe me, watch this excellent video on how to make Wisconsin’s classic cocktail.
Sadly Brandy fell out of fashion and was eclipsed by Whiskies. But that’s changing today for a variety of reasons. Some are finding a taste for this great Spirit, others are trying out new variations. And there’s even an argument that Brandy is more sustainable than many other Spirit.
That has many distillers trying out their hands at it so you have more options than ever to fit all your diverse palates.