That bottle of brandy hanging out in your alcohol cabinet does more than pair up with mixers and ice. A splash in your next recipe can make you look fancy AF and add some flair to your food.
Why would you use brandy for cooking?
Not only does brandy bring a robust, distinct flavor to a dish, but it’s also a great liquid to use in order to help keep meats moist.
We rounded up the best cooking brandies and specific recipes that include them to impress your dinner party.
When cooking with booze, there’s more to it than setting your frying pan on fire (and that should be left to the pros anyway).
Brandy is made from fermented fruits — commonly grapes, but also apples, peaches, and others. It differs from wine because it goes through the distillation process to increase the alcohol content, and then gets bottled up into oak barrels to age and build flavor.
The combination of its fruity flavor and oaky notes makes brandy the perfect companion for sweet and savory dishes. A common use of brandy is to flambé desserts like bananas foster, cherries jubilee, and bombe Alaska (a meringue dessert).
On the savory end of things, brandy goes well with all sorts of meats and seafood. It’s often used to deglaze the pan and form a sauce or combined with other liquids to braise a cut of meat.
What’s the difference between brandy and cognac?
You may hear people use the words brandy and cognac interchangeably, but cognac is held to much higher standards.
The creation of cognac is specific to the Cognac region in France, particularly the department of Charente and Charente-Maritime, which is the Southwest area.
It goes through an intense qualification process, requiring the use of specific grapes and a distillation period between October 1 and March 31. Cognac also tends to include qualifications to let you know how long it was barrel-aged:
- VS (aka Very Special) means it was aged for at least 2 years.
- VSOP (aka “Very Superior Old Pale”) means it was aged for at least 4 years.
- XO (aka Extra Old) means it was aged for 10 years or more (not that it was sealed with a hug and a kiss).
- XXO (aka Extra Extra Old) certifies a cognac as having been through at least 14 years of barrel-aging.
- Reserve cognacs are an average of 25 years old.
- Hors d’Age (aka Beyond Age) means that a cognac is at least 30 years old — sometimes even 100 (and, yes, you pay through the nose for every single one of those years).
So in the end, all cognac is brandy but not all brandies can call themselves cognac.
If you’re wondering what the best cooking brandies are, you’ve come to the right place. The price range falls between $8 and $40 per bottle, but that can vary depending on your local liquor stores. They all provide different flavors so you can pick and choose which would work best in your particular recipe.
|Name||Price||Why it made the list|
|E&J||$8.99 per 750 ml||If you’re not looking to be too bougie, this brandy fits the bill. The notes of apple, oak, vanilla, and spice make it the perfect option to add to desserts.|
|Courvoisier||$29.99 per 750 ml||This cognac is aged between 3 and 7 years. It provides a delicate taste of peach and woody flavors that’s perfect for your recipes without breaking the bank.|
|Hennessy||$39.99 per 750 ml||This is probably one of the most commonly known brandies, thanks to some of our favorite songwriters. (Tupac must’ve rhymed “enemy” with “Hennessy” once every four bars.)|
It gives off a great oaky and almond flavor due to years of hanging out in oak casks but is also fruit-forward due to its grape content.
|Martell||$39.99 per 750 ml||With this brandy, you get notes of plum, apricot, and candied lemons which can take both your savory and sweet recipes to the next level.|
Fun fact: cooking alcohol doesn’t actually burn all the alcohol away, contrary to popular belief. Depending on how the food is cooked and the length of time, the remaining alcohol content can range anywhere from 4 to 95 percent.
If you want to add the flavor of brandy to your food while making it family-friendly, there are plenty of options:
- Fruit juices. Whether you tend to gravitate toward a grape-forward brandy or apple, just pick up the natural fruit juice of it instead. It will still provide all the flavor and none of the booze.
- Apple cider vinegar. Similar to fruit juice, apple cider vinegar will provide that apple flavor plus an additional “bite” from the vinegar.
- Brandy extract. This bottle of extract is made with alcohol but uses a very small amount compared to an actual bottle of brandy. Using it will leave little to no alcohol in the finished product. It’s still best to avoid it, though, if you don’t consume alcohol for personal or religious reasons.
- Water. If you tend to use brandy mainly to moisten your meals, water will do the trick. Unfortunately, it’s also tasteless, so you will be missing out on the additional flavors brandy brings.
Now that you have your bottle of brandy (or the alternatives), test out the waters with one of these delicious recipes:
- Brandy snaps. Molasses cookies with a brandy cream inside? You don’t have to tell us twice.
- Bella brandy cream chicken. A creamy brandy sauce paired with chicken and mushrooms sounds like a dinner fit for a king or queen. Serve it alongside fresh veg and pasta to enjoy a well-rounded, regal meal.
- Brandy creme brulee dessert. You don’t need a kitchen blowtorch to enjoy creme brulee. These bite-sized nuggets have a creamy brandy-flavored custard and are sweetened up with a caramel drizzle.
- Breakfast crepes. If you weren’t a morning person before, you will be with these crepes. The crepe gets most of its flavor from the brandy and vanilla, which can be enhanced by adding in some apple or apricot jelly.
- Steaks with caramel-brandy sauce. If beef is on the menu tonight, pair it up with this sweet brandy sauce. A1 sauce? We don’t know her anymore.
Just because you don’t drink brandy, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t cook with it. Each brandy has a different distillation process, whether it gets its flavor from apples, grapes, or another fruit.
In the end, you’ll have a flavorful dessert or entree that will make you question why you don’t use brandy in the kitchen more often.