December 4, 2018
When we think of cognac, brandy and port, sometimes we think these are outdated libations, served in the 60’s and 70’s at lavish retro cocktail parties where guests would dream of one day visiting ‘the Continent’. But these spirits are actually experiencing a renaissance, and they’re becoming more popular than ever. If you’re thinking about experimenting with Cognac, or brandy, here’s what you need to know to dazzle your friends and holiday party guests with vintage inspired cocktails, plus some recipes to get you started.
A spirit made by distilling wine, and generally has about 35–60% alcohol by volume. Brandy is often sweet tasting.
A variety of Brandy, specifically named after the town of Cognac in France. It must be twice distilled in copper pot stills and aged at least two years in French oak barrels.
A fortified wine, where distilled grape spirits (called aguardiente) are added to the wine. Port must be made in the Douro Valley in the northern provinces of Portugal. Port is typically a sweet, red wine, often served after dinner, but it also comes in dry, semi-dry, and white varieties.
Fun with Port
Each of these spirits can be sipped solo, or even on the rocks. Picking up a Quevedo Port Advent Calendar is a great way to sample different styles of port, and makes entertaining those after-dinner guests easy.
Brandy and Cognac are also particularly nice when served warm. Try using brandy and Cognac in these inspired cocktails.
Holiday Cocktails Recipes
2 ounces of Bache Gabrielsen cognac or Spanish brandy
Warm the cognac by laying a snifter glass over top of a glass of hot water. The goal is to warm—not heat —the cognac.
2 ounces Bache Gabrielsen cognac
1 ounce dark crème de cacao
1 ounce cream
Get a shaker, combine everything in it, and shake well before straining it into a glass. You can use whatever you want to garnish it, but nutmeg is most popular for this drink.
A sidecar cocktail is great because it provides a hint of orange thanks to the Grand Marnier. You’ll still be getting the richness of the brandy or cognac, but the orange will also give you a little bit of sweetness.
1 1/2 ounces cognac
3/4 ounce Grand Marnier
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/3 ounce sugar syrup
Add everything into a shaker filled with ice, shake for about 15 seconds, and strain into a glass. That’s it!
Creamy Chai Toddy
A hot toddy is popular during winter because of its warming properties. You’ll generally use brown liquor, which can include brandy, Cognac, whiskey, or rum. Adding chai infuses the drink with a wonderful holiday spiciness.
1 part chai tea concentrate
1 part milk
1 star anise
1 ounce cognac or brandy
1 ounce butterscotch liquour such as butterscotch schnapps
½ graham cracker, crushed and powdered
Measure chai tea and milk into a pot with the star anise. Heat until warm then pour into a mug or glass that has been warmed, leaving room for the spirits to bring it up to the top. Add liquor and stir again. Sprinkle with crushed graham cracker crumbs, and add a cinnamon stick.
Hot Pear-Apple Cider
4 cups sparkling apple cider
3 cups pear juice
1/2 vanilla bean
5 whole cloves
1/2 cup brandy
1 1/2 ounces Grand Marnier
1 pear for garnish
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring 3 cups of the sparkling cider, the pear juice, vanilla bean, and cloves to a boil.
Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for seven minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in brandy and orange liqueur. Strain liquid through a fine mesh sieve into a heatproof pitcher. Pour into mugs, and top off each with a splash of remaining sparkling cider, then garnish with a pear round or wedge.
Whether you are sipping solo or hosting a huge bash, there are plenty of fun and tasty cocktail ideas. Find all your holiday party needs at Co-op Wine Spirits Beer.
Like many folks in Calgary’s burgeoning brewing and distilling industry, Ross Alger started out making his own libations at home.
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