Brandy cocktails enjoying revival

It’s unfortunate that, these days, people tend to think of cocktails as being made with gin, tequila, the whiskies and vodka. Everyone forgets about brandy. Or, if they don’t, they think of it as a drink for old men in tweed, sipping it from warmed tulips as they smoke their way through Havana’s finest. Or they think of wealthy rappers drinking cognac.

This is a shame because, brandy has much to offer at the bar. If ever there was a spirit as deserving of a renaissance as last week’s rye, this is it.

Starting around 1860 and lasting until Prohibition, this time period was filled with fancy new bars and creative cocktails. Sure there was plenty of vodka, gin and whiskey flowing, but the spotlight was on brandy, arguably the king of cocktail spirits. The Sazerac was originally a brandy drink; juleps were as likely to be make of brandy as whiskey; and the first entry in Jerry Thomas’s seminal Bartender’s Guide is the Brandy Cocktail.

Being such a popular spirit at the time, brandy bars were the place to be. People were mixing the spirit, drinking it straight and brandy quickly became the go-to spirit. But the late 19th century would see the phylloxera outbreak wreak havoc on France’s vineyards, and Prohibition would render it totally unavailable, at least in America. Post Prohibition, brandy fell of the radar but currently many bars in the US are joining the movement to restore it to its original glory.

Brandy is found in a number of classic cocktails, many of which have been lost to time and the pages of dusty bartending guides. A few of the best drinks have lasted through the years and remain favorites for many cocktail lovers.

These drinks are a nice introduction to mixing with brandy and are among the simplest recipes you'll find, so anyone can mix them up in just a few minutes. By keeping the recipe simple and using common bar ingredients as accents, a good brandy can shine in the drink. That is the real beauty of these brandy cocktails and why they have been so popular for so long.


The Brandy Cocktail

We will begin the list with the one and only Brandy Cocktail, which fits the definition of a cocktail perfectly. It mixes brandy with curaçao, then finishes it off with 2 dashes of both Angostura and Peychaud's Bitters. And it’s from this ancient school of the bibulous arts that we gain the Old Fashioned, and this: The Brandy Cocktail. Its simplicity is its charm.

You will find that this hint of orange and bitters is subtle, yet elegant and it's a perfect way to dress up any brandy. Stir it.

Metropolitan

Just as gin has the Martini and bourbon and rye has the Manhattan, brandy has the Metropolitan. Alas, I’m not sure that’s true. If only because the name is not so embedded into Cocktail World as to see off the name’s appropriation for adaptations of the Cosmopolitan.

But this recipe has its roots in the 1930s, and it’s a brandy drink through and through.This classic recipe mixes brandy with sweet vermouth and simple syrup for a simple, satisfying drink that is great before dinner.

The addition of simple syrup adds just a hint of sweetness that brings the vermouth and brandy into balance. Take it easy and don't add too much. Shake it !

Sidecar

Some say (well, The Ritz says) that this was invented at The Ritz Hotel in Paris, others say it was invented at the Buck’s Club in London. And the author of The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, said it was invented by a US Army captain who zipped around Paris in a sidecar during World War I. Of course, none of this is important. What matters is that the Sidecar is one of the classic cocktails, easy to make, easier to drink, and well due a revival.

The Sidecar is one of those drinks that has seen many makeovers over the years and it is one that you can easily adapt to your personal taste. The recipe uses your brandy of choice (often Armagnac, try Cyrano 25 Years Old), orange liqueur, and lemon juice.

You will find that the Sidecar is a fantastic brandy sour. Try the Savoy's recipe.

Vieux Carré

A New Orleans classic, the Vieux Carre is an interesting cocktail with layers of memorable flavors. Brandy combines with rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, and both Angostura and Peychaud's bitters.

The complexity of the Vieux Carre makes it a memorable cocktail and it is yet another drink to show off your best brandies (try it with Cyrano 25 Years old). You can taste each flavour swirling around the other, at once distinct yet beautifully harmonized in this booze-forward cocktail that goes down unexpectedly easy. Stir it !

Corpse Reviver #1

The Corpse Reviver goes beyond just a single drink. Instead, it was an entire class of pre-Prohibition drinks. These were, quite appropriately, meant to raise the dead or (to be more realistic) the hungover drunk who stumbled into the bar early in the morning.

This Corpse Reviver recipe is just one of many drinks that have taken the name since the first notation in 1871. The recipe exists in several versions. Numbers one (brandy) and two (gin) were published in Harry Craddock’s The Savoy Cocktail Book in 1930.

This is a common brandy recipe that uses brandy along with sweet vermouth. It is a delightful drink and it's another good use for your favorite brandy. Stir well

Brandy Crusta

You’ll notice a theme emerging here: brandy cocktails tend to be on the older side. The inspiration that launched a thousand Sidecars – and even more Margaritas – this subtle yet glamorous drink first appeared in 1850s New Orleans. The " Crusta" is an improvement on the " Cocktail," and
is said to have been Invented by Santina a celebrated Spanish caterer. Ten years later was published in Jerry Thomas’s 1862 Bartenders’ Guide. Age has not withered it. It as delicious today as it ever was.

The recipe uses your brandy of choice (try Cyrano XO), triple sec or Cointreau, lemon juice, Maraschino liqueur and a dash of either Angostura or Peychaud’s Bitters. Mix the ingredients in a shaker, then take a fancy red-wine glass, rub a sliced lemon around the rim of the same, and dip it in
pulverized white sugar, so that the sugar will adhere to the edge of the glass. Pare half a lemon the same as you would an apple (all in one piece) so that the paring will fit in the cocktail glass, and strain the crusta from the shaker into it. Then smile.

Sazerac

It all began for the Sazerac cocktail in 1838 when Antoine Amedie Peychaud, a New Orleans apothecary, mixed cognac with his proprietary Peychaud bitters. In the 1850s, the drink was the signature drink of the Sazerac Coffee House in New Orleans where it received its name and became the first "branded" cocktail. The exact reason for the substitution of rye whiskey for the brandy is unclear, but today it is made with whiskey exclusively.

The original drink consists of brandy, Peychaud’s bitters, sugar and a kiss of lemon oils; the glass is chilled and sprayed with a delicate dusting of absinthe. Elegant, complex and timeless – the very definition of what a classic cocktail should be.

Mint Julep

There are many varieties, the 1862 edition of Bar-Tenders Guide: How to Mix Drinks or The Bon-Vivant's Companion by Jerry Thomas includes five recipes for the mint julep allowing for either Cognac, brandy, gin, whiskey or sparkling wine. In 1916, the traditional Virginia recipe was made of the purest French brandy, limestone water, old-fashioned cut loaf sugar, crushed ice, and young mint.

Traditionally, mint juleps were often served in silver or pewter cups, and held only by the bottom and top edges of the cup. This allows frost to form on the outside of the cup. Make this classic the old-fashioned way, with the very best French brandy.

Japanese

The Japanese Cocktail was also invented by Jerry Thomas. Originally, lemon peels were stirred with the other ingredients in the rocks glass and it was served over ice. Over the years small things were replaced and we now have a cocktail with lime juice that is served straight up.

There is nothing Japanese about this drink and the story behind the name implies it was inspired by the first Japanese representatives to the United Nations who roomed near Thomas' bar. A bunch of dignified, reserved, non-English speaking samurai and Tommy (Tateishi Onoijour Noriyuki) alias "Tommy", the translator.

The first cocktail on record to have a name not reflecting its ingredients; an artistic name, not a functional one [as] there’s nothing Japanese in the drink…. Let's have one on Tommy !

B&B

B&B stands for Brandy and Benedictine; it's that simple. It is one of the icons of fine drinking and is truly a classic cocktail. Said to have been created in 1937 by a bartender at New York's famous 21 Club - "Never let the truth get in the way of a good story".

A B&B is often served on the rocks. Some drinkers prefer it straight up and others prefer it slightly warmer (prep your snifter with warm water, dumping it before adding the spirits). It is almost always served in a brandy snifter and it makes an ideal after-dinner drink or nightcap. Sip it !

 

Many of these cocktails remain favorites today. Others may have been forgotten by the general public, though there are some very interesting drinks worth noting and reviving.

Cocktail culture is so prescient now, and people have become more knowledgeable and educated about what they’re drinking. It’s neat to see a younger generation choosing to drink Sazeracs, Japanese and Sidecars – to know that, after all these years, people still appreciate a solid, consistent and timeless drink.

Cyrano