As part of our look at why brandy seems to be bringing up the rear of the local, small-batch spirits craze, we put together a few cocktail ideas that incorporate the spirit.
For starters, a good mixing brandy like Raynal XO ($30) is an able stand-in for whiskey in most cocktails. Heck, even your dusty old bottle of Korbel will do a half-decent job. If you need a few suggestions to get you started, try these:
Wisconsin Old Fashioned
Muddle an orange wedge, maraschino cherry, sugar cube, and two dashes Angostura bitters in a lowball glass. Fill with ice, then add 2 ounces of brandy (the cheap stuff only) and top with lemon-lime soda. Garnish with another cherry and orange wedge—or skip the garnish entirely, because, let’s be honest, you’ll be making another one in about 15 minutes anyway.
This is usually made with rye whiskey, but a good brandy can handle the herbal funk of fernet with surprising grace. Try this mix—2 ounces brandy, 1⁄4 ounce Tattersall fernet, 1⁄4 ounce simple syrup, 2 dashes Angostura bitters. Stir with ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with an orange twist.
Use 2 ounces of cognac to 3⁄4 ounce of a good Italian sweet vermouth, with a few dashes Angostura. Stir it with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a swath of orange zest. Three options to customize the drink:
1) Add a teaspoon of rye whiskey for some nice background spice;
2) Add a dash of good orange liqueur and call it a Young Man cocktail; or
3) Add a dash of cherry syrup from a jar of Egbert’s Brandied Cocktail Cherries, and call yourself a wise cocktail connoisseur.
As with the Manhattan above, brandy and rye whiskey can make compelling bedfellows. With Derby Day coming up in early May, you’d best start getting your julep skills in order right away. We suggest skipping the bourbon this year; make yours a Prescription Julep instead.
In a tall glass (or copper tin, if you’re fancy), muddle the leaves on a sprig of mint with 1⁄2 ounce of simple syrup, making sure only to pop the veins of the leaves, not tear them apart. The syrup should become nice and green. Discard the sprig. Add 1⁄2 ounce rye whiskey, fill the glass half-way with crushed ice, and stir until the glass begins to frost. Add 1-1⁄2 ounces brandy, fill the glass all the way with crushed ice, and stir again until good and cold. Garnish with a fresh sprig of mint and a straw.