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Brandy and Cognac

Brandy, long-identified with bald monks in France, is the oldest known liquor. It's the esperanto for any distillate made from fruit. The finest brandies are still made in Cognac, a region in the south of France near Bordeaux. Because of the exclusive address, high-quality cognac is too expensive (and too full-bodied) to mix in a cocktail, so we tend to drink them straight. In California, a few small distilleries produce superior brandies for the same price as an average Hennessey or Courvosier. Carneros Alambic, RMS, and Germain Robin make wonderful brandies using the same processes as their French counterparts. It's fine with us that these companies are too new to offer really old brandies; we probably couldn't afford them anyway. We're quite happy paying the US$20 to $25 for a fifth. Similar to rum, a brandy's flavor and bouquet varies depending on the aging and blending process. Lighter brandies are for warmer climates, while rich, robust cognacs are best when Jack Frost is nipping at your nose. Most brandies are derived from grapes; however, brandies made from apples, pears, and other fruits are also common. Many fruit brandies sold today are simply a blend of neutral grain spirits, sugar syrup, and fruit extracts. They're low in proof, high in sugar, and can cause a tremendous hangover. French fruit brandies are produced by macerating whole fruit in very high-proof grape distillates. After one to six months of marrying the mixture, it's redistilled to remove impurities and color. The brandy is then remixed with sugar syrup and colorings and prepared for bottling. These brandies tend to be less sweet and worth the extra expense
Last modified: 5 April 2009
Editors: Nik D
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