This is the fourth installment in the Spirited Cuisine series from Sri Bala (Shaman) and me. Each round, I select a liquor or spirit, and Sri creates a dessert recipe incorporating it. Find Sri’s posts at his blog and mine here within the Lush Life category.
Brandy is the world’s oldest spirit — as old as distilling itself. It’s made by distilling wine or fermented fruit mash: Brandy made from wine is "brandy," while brandy from other fruit goes by the fruit’s name, like "cherry brandy." There are variants — for example, Cognac, which comes from the Cognac region of France. Oh, and don’t forget Armagnac (another high-end French brandy), and Metaxa and Ouzo from Greece, and Calvados (France again), and applejack (America), and kirschwasser (which I adore)…. On and on it goes.
Plus there are those crazy brandy snifters, which look cool but seem challenging to drink properly from. Am I supposed to cup it in my hand? Hold the base? Or maybe the stem? How long am I supposed to sniff? How goofy do I look while sniffing?
No wonder the average drinker is thrown off.
Our lack of familiarity with brandy is a real shame, because brandy is as flexible as liquors come. You can substitute it for bourbon, whiskey, vodka, or most other liquors in almost any cocktail for a neat twist on your standard drink. And it’s the best option for oomph in punch recipes like champagne punch, sangria, eggnog punch….
Brandy is the go-to-guy of the bar.
Brandy is also the main ingredient in two of the classic cocktails: the Sidecar and the Stinger.
The Sidecar is kicker of a drink. It has a balance of citrus tang and sugar sweetness — from a combination of Cointreau and either lemon or lime — backed by the smoothness of the brandy. People can debate whether it’s a "girly drink," but it has all the muscle any drink needs. I like mine mixed like this:
2 parts good brandy
1 part Cointreau
big squeeze of lime
Stir with ice, strain into chilled, stemmed cocktail glass. Skip the garnish and start sipping … slowly.
As for the Stinger, it too is deceptively strong but still sophisticated. According to Esquire’s Handbook for Hosts (published in 1949, "A Time-Honored Guide to the Perfect Party"):
Formerly a quiet member of the "horsey" set, an also-ran in the cocktail derby, the Stinger buzzed into popularity when wartime pilots discovered how well it lives up to its name. Even though Army-Navy plane clothes have been doffed for plain clothes, the ex-fliers still like to check out on the Stinger.
I like it after dinner, because it tastes of mint and seems to help digestion. Besides, if I have one or two before dinner, I find that the meal flies by without me remembering to eat.
2 parts brandy
1 part white Creme de Menthe
Stir with cracked ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Get ready to buzz.
Brandy plays extraordinarily well in food too, as demonstrated by Sri’s culinary creation for this round: Brandy Bread Pudding with Apples and Spice. In addition to the recipe being tasty, the photo essay that accompanies it is a wonder. I promise your mouth will be watering as you read. Enjoy.
Our next inspiration for Spirited Cuisine: Galliano, that crazy yellow stuff in the too-tall bottle.