How to Drink Brandy Like a Connoisseur?
Brandy, derived from the Dutch word “brandewijn,” which translates to “burnt wine,” is an exquisite type of spirit that is enjoyed globally. This finely distilled spirit, which arises from the fermentation and distillation of fruits, typically grapes, offers a complex, unique taste that can be savoured on a cosy evening or a celebration. Despite its widespread popularity, many individuals are uncertain about how to drink brandy correctly. This guide is designed to walk you through the process of appreciating brandy, giving you the confidence to savour this beautiful beverage like a true connoisseur.
1 Understanding Brandy
Brandy, at its most basic, is a spirit made by distilling wine. It primarily uses grapes, but other fruits like apples, cherries, and peaches are also used, producing what we know as fruit brandies or eau de vie. Cognac and Armagnac, two famous types of brandy, are named after their respective regions in France and have specific regulations about their production.
Brandy typically varies in age and quality. VS (Very Special) brandy has been aged for a minimum of two years, VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale) for four years, and XO (Extra Old) for six years, though many XO brandies are aged much longer. Some houses use additional classifications such as Napoleon or Hors d’age, indicating brandies that have been aged even longer.
2 The Right Glassware
Brandy is traditionally served in a snifter, a short-stemmed glass with a wide bottom and a narrower top. The design of a snifter allows the brandy to be swirled easily, enhancing aeration and helping the aroma of the brandy to concentrate at the top of the glass, improving the tasting experience. However, a white wine glass can also be used and may even offer a better nosing experience.
3 Serving Temperature
The serving temperature of brandy can significantly influence its taste. Ideally, brandy should be served at “room temperature,” about 15-20°C (59-68°F). If it’s too cold, the flavours become muted; if too warm, the alcohol becomes overwhelming.
4 Pouring and Aeration
Pour about an ounce or 25-30 ml of brandy into the glass – just enough to cover the bottom. This allows for enough room for the brandy to breathe. Swirl the glass gently to let the brandy aerate and reveal its full aroma. This is an essential step known as “waking up the brandy.” Let the brandy sit for a minute for every year it has been aged before you take your first sip.
Brandy is as much about aroma as it is about taste. After swirling, hold the glass at chest level and inhale the aroma lightly. It’s essential not to stick your nose into the glass, as the concentrated alcohol can overpower the subtler scents. Try to identify the individual scents – the best brandies will provide a symphony of complex and well-balanced aromas.
After appreciating the brandy’s aroma, take a small sip. Allow the brandy to coat your mouth and linger on your tongue before swallowing. Try to identify the different flavours. Like the nose, the palate should be complex and well-balanced. After swallowing, breathe out gently through your nose to appreciate the finish. The finest brandies will have a long, warming, and satisfying finish.
7 Brandy and Food Pairings
Like any fine liquor, brandy can be wonderfully paired with food. Cheeses, especially blue cheese, camembert, and comté, make great companions for brandy, as the creamy textures contrast beautifully with the smooth warmth of the spirit. Chocolate and brandy is another classic pairing; the bitterness of dark chocolate can perfectly balance the inherent sweetness of brandy. Fruit-based desserts, like a tart tatin or a simple bowl of berries, are excellent choices as well. Additionally, brandy can also be a great accompaniment to smoked or cured meats, offering a delightful contrast in flavours.
8 Brandy in Cocktails
Although sipping neat is the traditional method of drinking brandy, it also makes a versatile base for a variety of cocktails. The Sidecar, Brandy Alexander, and the classic Brandy Old Fashioned are just a few examples of the delicious cocktails you can create. Keep in mind that the other ingredients in the cocktail should complement, not mask, the brandy’s complex flavours. Thus, it’s typically best to use lower-grade brandy for mixed drinks and save your high-quality, aged brandies for sipping.
9 Brandy's Health Benefits
While it’s important to drink responsibly, moderate consumption of brandy can offer certain health benefits. Rich in antioxidants, it can contribute to a healthy heart and may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. Additionally, the polyphenolic compounds found in brandy have been found to improve cholesterol levels. However, remember that these benefits only come from moderate and responsible drinking – about one serving per day.
10 The Art of Appreciation
While there are certainly “rules” when it comes to drinking brandy, it’s crucial to remember that the real joy of brandy, as with any fine spirit, lies in its appreciation. The time-honoured ritual of pouring, swirling, nosing, and sipping allows for a mindful pause in our often busy lives, a moment to truly savour the craftsmanship and tradition that is contained in each glass.
Drinking brandy is an art that calls for patience and tranquillity. The more attention you devote to the experience, the more you will discover the depth of flavours and aromas that good brandy provides.
11 Wrapping Up
In conclusion, brandy is a fine spirit that deserves to be savoured and appreciated. From the correct glassware and serving temperature to the art of nosing and tasting, understanding how to drink brandy can significantly enhance your enjoyment of this exquisite beverage. Whether you’re new to brandy or a seasoned enthusiast, there’s always more to learn and appreciate about this timeless spirit.
Remember, it’s not about the rules or the rituals but the pleasure you derive from savouring a beautifully made brandy. So, here’s to taking the time to truly enjoy, explore, and celebrate the world of brandy!
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