If you walked into a bar in the 19th century and asked for “a cocktail” without elaborating, instead of a blank stare, you might get something pretty close to what we now call an old fashioned – a base spirit with some sweetener and bitters. Today’s drink goes back to that era and uses a minimal number of ingredients to make drinking brandy or cognac more fun. There are many ways to approach the Brandy Cocktail, but I’m borrowing mostly from a recipe by Colleen Graham at The Spruce Eats. I like it for its bold blend of bitters and also for offering the option to shake things up a little.
The Brandy Cocktail
2 ounces brandy
½ ounce orange curacao
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Lemon twist (necessary garnish)
Combine the liquids in an ice-filled cocktail shaker or – if such is your mood – a mixing glass. Shake or stir vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add the very important lemon twist, running the front of the lemon peel around the rim of the glass and then twisting it over the drink to send out some citrus oil. Sip and appreciate.
Feel free to make whatever adjustments you like in this one. You can use less bitters or only one type if you don’t have both on hand. This is a very good drink stirred but, if you do it Colleen Graham’s way and shake it, it will go down easier. I’m less certain, however, that you need to use more expensive ingredients as she sort of hints at – and I’m not even sure using superb top-shelf stuff in a Brandy Cocktail would be a good use of your boozing dollar. As with all good cocktails, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
The Brandy Cocktail is a sweeter drink than you might expect. Brandy is among the sweetest base spirits and even Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao is only a little drier than the other brand I went with, Marie Brizard. The Brizard line of liqueurs appears to be consistently a step up from Hiram Walker, Bols, and DeKuyper while being comparably priced; it’s an outstanding choice here. At the same time, I’m not going to lie: the more expensive Pierre Ferrand will produce the most balanced and flavorful results.
As for brandy, I went with three products. DeLuze VS Cognac is at the lower end of the cognac price range but it punches above its weight; Reynal is a decent and very reasonably priced French brandy that is not cognac but the brand has an office in the Cognac region. Close enough! For variety, I used a new favorite, Christian Brother’s Sacred Bond – a 100 proof bottled-in-bond brandy that my superb local liquor store is selling at an insane bargain price – it’s easily worth twice as much. Honestly, all the Brandy Cocktails I made were good but DeLuze did add a bit of additional zing – that’s a technical term for zingy! On the other hand, there’s no zing like the zing you get from a good quality 100 proof base spirit. The Sacred Bond killed it the most.