The first time I came across brandy was when I bought a bottle to bake special Christmas cookies. This experience isn’t unique. In fact, many people come across this adaptable liquor because of a recipe and not necessarily by browsing the local shelves for a sipping drink. However, upon tasting this cooking ingredient, I discovered that the spirit was delicious and flavorful.
Brandy is a versatile liquor that can be used in a variety of applications. These include cooking, sipping, mixing, and gifting. Stand out from the crowd! Need a gift for the boss, or soon-to-be father-in-law? How about brandy instead of the typical, sensationalized (and often over-hyped) wine or Scotch whisky?
I’m not alone in thinking that brandy is the perfect “wow” gift. In fact, a $2 million bottle of Henri IV Dudognon Heritage Cognac Grande Champagne sold in 2008. (Cognac is a type of brandy.) This special brew comes in 24 karat gold dipped with sterling platinum and features 6,500 certified cut diamonds as decoration. The Cognac inside was aged in barrels for more than 100 years. Wow, indeed!
One doesn’t need to be a millionaire to find the perfect gift of brandy, though. This article will offer the best budget brandy to try, with suggestions for the best options for cooking, sipping, mixing, and gifting.
Not already acquainted with our articles about what brandy is and how it’s made? Read Best Brandy for Beginners.
Because brandy packs a lot of flavor due to the distilling and aging processes, it is best used in small amounts. You can use it with seafood, chicken, turkey, liver, pork, sauces, mashed potatoes, noodles, vegetables, and, of course, in a variety of desserts.
A beginning-level chef can start easily by just adding a few drops of brandy in a fruit salad, over (or inside) a cheesecake, in a cake batter, or in a pudding. If making a chocolate fondue for friends, add a few dashes of brandy directly into the chocolate for a little extra taste. If you are making a soup with a cream base, like cream of chicken, mushroom, or seafood soup, adding a dash of brandy can give your soup a very different flavor.
(Expert tip: To see if the flavor will please your palate, just scoop some of your dishes into a small coffee cup. Add a small eye-dropper worth of brandy, mix, and taste. If you like it, add the brandy to the larger dish. By trying the brandy in a separate dish, the entire meal won’t be ruined on the off chance you don’t like the flavor.)
A more experienced cook may use brandy as a de-glazer in a meat dish. (Watch a tutorial here.) They also may use it to flambé foods, which takes a little extra skill to ensure eyebrows are not singed! (Watch a tutorial here.)
Without further ado, here are our picks for the best budget brandy to try for cooking. They are guaranteed to get your mouth watering!
California | $14 USD
This spirit is aged for a minimum of two years. It has aromas of sweet brown spice and has notes of vanilla cream, maple, and sherry.
New Jersey | $27 USD
This spirit smells like apples, hibiscus, sweet cherry, and nougat. It has hints of honey and peach, which evolve on the palate.
This section will break down a few brandy options that fall within certain price ranges. This will ensure that you find the absolute perfect choice for your budget!
Brandy is often enjoyed as an after-dinner drink. It’s called a digestif because it aids with digestion and helps to “cut the fat.” It is known to relieve upset stomachs caused by eating a big meal. Remember to serve brandy at room temperature and that it may be sipped “neat” out of a snifter.
France | $22 USD
Flowers leap forward with this spirit! This smooth and velvety Cognac has the fragrance of violet and lavender, in addition to possessing the profiles of pear, plum, and apricot. It leaves a hint of spicy wood as an interesting finish.
Armenia | $30 USD
This brandy feels like Christmas. It will bring back memories of cakes with vanilla, dried fruits, nuts, and spices. It is fruit-forward, with a strong association of ripe and juicy plums, along with peaches. The finish is reminiscent of cinnamon and wood.
France, Cognac | $48 USD
The “original” Hennessy. This spirit is aged in young oak barrels, which the distiller believes gives it a youthful energy. It tastes like candied fruit that is soon followed by peppery and chocolate flavors. This drink’s finale plays out with more chocolatey flavors and a young oak flourish.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with using your brandy for mixing. In fact, many brandies are designed specifically with mixing in mind! When contemplating cocktails in which to use brandy, keep the tasting notes in mind. Some brandies are more fruit-forward while others have a prominence of wood.
Spain | $24 USD
This is a good pick for a drink that’s wood and nut flavor-forward. The Torres 10 has warm hints of cinnamon and vanilla, with a persistent oak finish. This Spanish medal-winner is aged in American Oak.
Spain | $40 USD
Our chocolate choice! Made from Airen grapes and aged 15 years in sherry wine casks, this ranks high on the list as a chocolate pairing. The flavor profile features coffee, spices, and orange zest. Of course, sherry flavors are present, along with vanilla, toffee and caramel.
France, Armagnac | $35 USD
Wine Enthusiast gives this brandy a whopping 97 points, so count on it to be a quality buy. This brandy uses Bacco – Ugni Blanc grapes and is aged in Gascon oak casks. Flavor notes of grape, apples, and vanilla will capture your attention.
Maybe you’re on the hunt for a present for a retiring colleague, or to maintain a distinctive client. Brandy and Cognac make for smashing gift ideas! When taking this route, it’s time for a pricier bottle that is really going to dazzle. Don’t forget to pair the gift with an impressive decanter and snifter set.
Here are our top selections for reasonably priced brandies to gift:
France, Cognac | $85 USD
Aged in toasted French oak casks, this Cognac is exceptionally round with a creamy aftertaste. It has a flavor profile of butterscotch, spices, and dark chocolate. Your nose is going to get hints of plum and fig jam before the oaky toffee smell finishes out the experience. A delicious all-around choice!
France, Cognac | $152 USD
Priced at over $150, this Cognac is a tribute to Englishman Thomas Hine, who discovered “the subtleties within Cognac.” This particular choice begins with a blend of 20 Champagne grapes, which are grown in an area with limestone. The distillery credits the limestone for the spirit’s particular minerality. It’s then aged in select “damp British cellars” for a minimum of 10 years. Its taste profile includes candied citrus, honey, and fresh hazelnuts.
Ah, there’s so much to love about brandy! It really is the perfect choice for sipping, cooking, mixing —or all of the above! A good bottle of brandy can also make a powerful gift statement.
What is your favorite brandy? Let us know in the comments!