Brandy (from brandywine, derived from Dutch brandewijngebrande wijn or “burned wine”) is a spirit produced by distilling wine. Brandy generally contains 35–60% alcohol by volume (70–120 US proof) and is typically taken as an after-dinner drink. Some brandies are aged in wooden casks, some are colored with caramel coloring to imitate the effect of aging, and others are produced using a combination of both aging and coloring. The term “brandy” also denotes liquors obtained from the wines of other fruits. Apples, cherries, plums, pears, and peaches have all been distilled into what are called fruit brandies or eaux de vie. Pomace brandy––made using grapes with their stems, skins, and seeds––is also very common. There are many types of brandy found across the winemaking regions of the world. Among the most renowned are Cognac and Armagnac from France or Pisco from Peru and Chile. Brandy is generally rated by age, but the ratings vary widely by country (it is generally unregulated in the US). The most common ratings are:
  • 3 star or VS (Very Special): a brandy aged for at least two years. 3 star or VS brandies are typically what are mixed into cocktails.
  • VSOP (Very Special Old Pale): a brandy aged for at least four years
  • XO (Extra Old): a brandy aged six and a half years or more.
  • Hors d’age or Vintage: a brandy usually ten years or older. Vintage brandies will have the year of harvest on the bottle, whereas the age of an hors d’age brandy is unknown.

Older brandies are best enjoyed neat. Younger brandies thrive in a wide variety of cocktails. Brandy drinks range from the famous (the Hot Toddy, the Sidecar, the Pisco Sour, etc.) to the more obscure (the Brandy Old Fashioned, the Last Resort, the Original Sazerac, etc.).


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