How to Buy Brandy

Brandy, a spirit distilled from wine or fermented fruit juices, has been used as a cocktail and cooking ingredient for centuries. When buying brandy it's best to choose a fine, slightly more expensive brand, since cheap brandies tend to have a poor, burning taste. Available brandies include cognac, armagnac and flavored spirits like cherry and apple brandy.


    • 1

      Learn about the different kinds of brandy, like cognac before you buy. High acid, low-alcohol cognac comes from the Cognac region in southwestern France. Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche and Colombard grapes are used to make this brandy. It is considered a "classier" version of brandy and is often served as an after-dinner drink.

    • 2

      Sample armagnac. This brandy, aged in oak caskets in the Gascony region of France, has a stronger taste than cognac. It is meant to be tasted on its own and is too strong for most cocktails.

    • 3

      Order or prepare brandy cocktails like Sidecars (made with lemon-lime and triple sec), Brandy Alexanders (made with Creme de Cacao) or Apple Brandy Sours (apple brandy with cherry, lemon and powdered sugar) with low-priced or medium brandy like Christian Brothers or E & J. If you want to drink brandy straight, buy a grape-based cognac for best taste. Less expensive brands can be mixed with Coke, ginger ale and other beverages.

    • 4

      Consider flavored brandy. Liqueur stores feature a rainbow of flavored brandies like apple, cherry, ginger, blackberry, coffee, raspberry and the popular apricot brandy. Use flavored brandies for cocktails like Bee Stingers, made with blackberry brandy. These brandies are made from grapes and the additional flavor is added later.

    • 5

      Buy brandies fermented from fruits other than grapes. An apple brandy called Calvados comes from France, while Germany and the Alsace regions in France produce fine cherry brandies. American "Applejack" thought to be the first spirit made in the U.S. is still produced in the Eastern seaboard.

    • 6

      Look at brandy classifications when you buy it. AC means aged 2 years, VS is "Very Special" aged 3 years, VSOP is Very Special aged 5 years, while XO is aged six years. Vintage brandy, marked with the bottling date, is kept in the barrel until then. Hors D'age means the age of the brandy can't be calculated.

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