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I love brandy, and I think it's criminally underrated as a sipping spirit as well as an ingredient in cocktails. As the latter, one of brandy's biggest strengths is its surprising adaptability. Its enticing aroma and oaky undertones hold up on their own in strong, simple cocktails like the Sidecar, but it can also be "dressed down," so to speak, to accommodate subtler flavors in softer drinks such as the Brandy Alexander.
Just as whiskey has been enjoying a resurgence in popularity, I think brandy's day in the sun is on the horizon. Get ahead of the trend with these delicious brandy cocktail recipes.
Depending on which cocktail historian you ask, the Sidecar is actually a direct precursor to the Margarita. Featuring a similar construction and ingredients, the story goes that the Margarita came about when a bartender ran out of brandy. When someone ordered a Sidecar, he improvised with tequila instead of brandy and lime juice instead of lemon juice, and the rest is history. Regardless how true that story actually is, it is a great introduction to one of the most classic brandy cocktail recipes of all time. If you're new to brandy, the Sidecar should be your first stop.
- 2 oz Copper and Kings brandy
- 1 oz Cointreau
- 1 oz fresh lemon juice
- Combine all ingredients over ice in a cocktail shaker.
- Shake and strain into a cocktail glass (tradition dictates a sugar-rimmed glass, but I prefer to skip that).
- Garnish with a thin slice of lemon peel.
If you hate the taste of alcohol (though if you do, I'm not sure why you're reading a list of brandy cocktail recipes), this is the perfect drink for you. The main flavors of a Brandy Alexander are cream and chocolate, while the brandy itself takes a back seat, providing strength and a subtle fruity overtone.
The Brandy Alexander has been the favorite of many great figures throughout history: John Lennon purportedly loved the drink, as did Lee Remick's character in The Days of Wine and Roses. Most famously, it's also my dad's favorite cocktail. If you haven't tried a Brandy Alexander before, you owe it to yourself to indulge in this creamy, chocolatey treat.
- 1 1/2 oz E & J XO Brandy
- 1 1/2 oz Creme de Cacao
- 1 1/2 oz Cream
- Fresh nutmeg, for garnish
- Combine equal parts brandy, creme de cacao, and cream over ice in a cocktail shaker.
- Shake briskly and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
- Grate fresh nutmeg over the cocktail and serve.
The Champagne Cocktail is probably one of the fanciest brandy cocktail recipes you'll come across. Actually, it's probably one of the fanciest anything cocktail recipes.
For those of you unfamiliar with the difference between brandy and cognac, here is a quick crash course: similarly to how champagne is a specific type of sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France, cognac, which pairs well with cigars, is a high-quality brandy which can only be produced in the town of Cognac, France and in the surrounding regions. In most cases, brandy and cognac will produce comparable results when substituted for each other in cocktail recipes.
- 3-4 oz Champagne
- 1/2 oz Gautier VSOP cognac or your choice of brandy
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 tsp simple syrup
- Maraschino cherry, for garnish
- Lemon peel, for garnish
- Combine the cognac, bitters, and simple syrup in a champagne flute or your daintiest cocktail glass, mixing gently.
- Top with champagne, filling the glass.
- Rub the lemon peel around the rim of the glass and drop it into the cocktail.
- Drop in a single maraschino cherry, if desired.
The Jack Rose stands out among the brandy cocktail recipes on this list thanks to its unique base ingredient: Laird's Applejack. While traditional brandy is distilled from wine, this apple brandy is distilled from hard cider. Originally produced in New Jersey during the colonial era, apple brandy is not only a surprisingly tasty spirit, but also a unique part of American history.
The Laird's distillery in Scobeyville, New Jersey is the oldest distillery in the United States, and it still produces one of the best bottles of apple brandy (also known as applejack) that money can buy. The Jack Rose is simple but tasty, making it one of my personal favorite apple brandy cocktails.
- 2 ounces Laird's Applejack
- 1 ounce fresh lime juice
- 1/2 ounce grenadine
Combine all ingredients over ice in a cocktail shaker, shake briskly, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Wisconsin Old Fashioned
Aided by Mad Men and the recent whiskey boom, the Old Fashioned has come back into vogue, and turned it into a staple drink of NYC. To almost everyone, an Old Fashioned cocktail means bourbon or rye whiskey, Angostura bitters, and sugar (or simple syrup). For reasons unknown (to me, at least), the "Old Fashioned" in Wisconsin is a completely different cocktail, delicious in its own unique way.
First and foremost, Wisconsinites swap out the whiskey for brandy, but you may have already guessed that from the fact that this is a list of brandy cocktail recipes. They also add fruit in the form of brandied maraschino cherries and an orange slice. Whiskey-based Old Fashioneds occasionally feature a garnish of orange peel or a single cherry, but the Cheeseheads take this to a whole new level.
The final and probably most egregious change is the addition of sweetened soda to the mix, such as Sprite. As far as I can tell from my view as an outsider, adding a lemon-lime soda like Sprite or 7 Up gives you a "Sweet" Old Fashioned, while adding a grapefruit flavored soda like Fresca or Squirt gives you a "Sour" Old Fashioned. It is also acceptable to add plain seltzer water, which is my personal preference for this beverage.
- 2oz E & J XO brandy
- 1 tsp simple syrup
- 2-3 dashes Angostura Bitters
- 2-3 brandied cherries (store-bought or you can make your own—in a pinch, you can also just use plain jarred maraschino cherries)
- 1-2 orange slices
- Seltzer water, Sprite, Squirt, or your soda preference
- Muddle cherries, orange slices, bitters, and simple syrup in an old fashioned cocktail glass.
- Fill the glass with plenty of cracked ice, pour in the brandy, and stir.
- Top it all off with your soda of choice (again, my preference is just seltzer water).
- Garnish with additional orange and cherry.
Corpse Reviver #1
I'm going to be honest here: I can't tell if I love or hate the name "Corpse Reviver." It kind of sounds more like a bad metal band than a cocktail. But alas, not only has this name been around for over 150 years, it is apparently so well-liked by bartenders that there are multiple recipes sharing the same name, individually specified by number. The most popular are the Corpse Reviver #1 and the Corpse Reviver #2. The latter is a gin-based monstrosity featuring absinthe and rare liqueurs, but the original Corpse Reviver is one of the tastiest brandy cocktail recipes I know.
Traditionally, this cocktail is made with cognac and Calvados, a French apple brandy. I'm going to mix things up a bit with an "American Style" take on the Corpse Reviver #1, featuring American brandy and Laird's Applejack.
- 2 oz Korbel brandy
- 1 oz Laird's Applejack
- 1 oz sweet vermouth
Stir all ingredients over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
This is another mixed drink for those averse to the taste of alcohol. My mother-in-law is one of these people. On the rare occasion she decides to enjoy a drink, the one and only cocktail she makes is the amaretto sour. Amaretto is an extremely sweet Italian liqueur, and the amaretto sour adds a bunch of sugar and lemon juice to make it, well, even sweeter. I do not share my mother-in-law's affinity for amaretto sours. I actually enjoy the flavor of a good amaretto, but it needs something to balance out that sweetness without overwhelming the flavor. So why not brandy?
The French Connection is not only delicious, it is also one of the simplest brandy cocktail recipes on this list, consisting merely of two ingredients. The traditional French Connection cocktail is made with cognac (hence the "French" in the name), but you may substitute brandy with little consequence. As I've explained, cognac and brandy are quite similar.
This no-nonsense recipe consists of equal parts cognac and amaretto mixed over ice in a cocktail glass. The beauty of the French Connection is how easy it is to adjust it to your tastes. In my case, I prefer to ease up on the amaretto for a more intense cognac flavor. In my mother-in-law's case, she'd ease up on the cognac... completely... and replace it with sugar and lemon juice.
- 2oz Courvoisier 12 Year Cognac or your choice of brandy
- 1 1/2 oz Disaronno or your choice of amaretto
Combine cognac and amaretto in a cocktail glass over ice. Feel free ot adjust the ratio to your tastes.
This New Orleans cocktail is commonly made with rye whiskey, but the Sazerac is actually one of the most classic brandy cocktail recipes on this list. It was invented in the mid-19th century (making it among the earliest American cocktails ever) as a cognac-based variation of the old fashioned cocktail. However, around 1870, France caught a bad case of grape-eating-bugs, which stalled the cognac market. New Orleans bartenders replaced it with rye whiskey, a variation that remains more popular to this day.
I think it's time we revisit the cognac-based Sazerac, as it is royalty among brandy cocktails.
- 2 oz Remy Martin VSOP Cognac or your choice of brandy
- 1 tsp absinthe or anise liqueur
- 1 tsp simple syrup
- 2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
- 1 lemon peel, for garnish
- Pour the absinthe into a chilled cocktail glass and swirl it around until it coats the inside of the glass.
- In a mixing glass, combine the cognac, simple syrup, and bitters over ice, stirring to combine.
- Strain the mixture into the chilled glass.
- Twist the lemon peel over the glass (to express the oils) and drop it into the drink.
Sangria is a well-known sweetened wine punch that can be purchased pre-made or personally prepared at home. There is a slew of reasons why its best to make sangria yourself, and chief among those reasons is that you can beef up this recipe with some booze. While some folks like to add white rum to their homemade sangria, I think this option is a little one-dimensional and out-of-character. Brandy, however, serves as an excellent complement to the wine in a good sangria recipe. After all, brandy is distilled from wine: what could be a more perfect pairing?
- 1 bottle of Spanish red wine such as Tempranillo (you want it to be bold and flavorful, but don't worry about finding something too fancy—it'll be mixed with loads of other flavors)
- 1/2 cup Felipe II Brandy de Jerez (or other Spanish brandy)
- 1/2 cup Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1 small Granny Smith apple, sliced (or pick your favorite variety)
- 1 orange, sliced
- Additional orange and maraschino cherries, for garnish
- Muddle the apple and orange slices in a large pitcher. Take a good minute to make sure the fruit is broken down.
- Add the brandy, liqueur, and orange juice and stir until thoroughly mixed.
- Add plenty of ice. The bigger the better when it comes to the size of the ice cubes, as we want to minimize dilution.
- Finally, top of the whole mixture with the entire bottle of wine and stir.
- Serve in chilled glasses, with ice if you wish. Garnish with orange slices and cherries.
Brandy's answer to the Manhattan, the Metropolitan is a strong, classy drink. Perfect for special occasions or after a long day, this is actually relatively simple compared to many brandy cocktail recipes. The tradeoff is that the quality of your ingredients makes a huge difference here.
- 2 oz Copper & Kings Butchertown Brandy (or your personal favorite)
- 1 oz Dolin Vermouth de Chambery Rouge (or your choice sweet vermouth)
- 2-3 dashes Fee Brothers Aromatic Bitters (Angostura works too)
- Brandied maraschino cherry, for garnish
- Combine ingredients over ice in a mixing glass and stir gently.
- Strain into a cocktail glass.
- Garnish with cherry and enjoy.