A spirit distilled from wine that’s made from grapes. The two best-known brandies in the UK, Cognac and Armagnac, come from South West France. Both are distilled from grapes from specific regions and matured for several years in wooden oak casks. This process gives the finished spirit its characteristic brown colour (although some caramel colour and flavour may also be added).
Brandy is also made in Spain, Italy, Mexico, the US and other countries where wine is made. Pisco, from Peru and Chile, is another variety of brandy.
There is a wide range of brandies available in the UK. Quality varies, roughly in accordance with price. The best Cognacs and Armagnacs should be treated with the respect their price suggests. Less expensive brandies are better candidates for cooking.
Top quality Cognacs and Armagnacs should be kept in cellar-like conditions until they’re opened. Store in a dark, cool place after opening.
Brandy is drunk as an after-dinner drink and cocktail ingredient but can also be used in cooking, particularly for flambéing certain desserts. It can also be used to de-glaze pans and is used in classic dishes such as steak Diane.
Article by Susan Low