10 Incredible Uses for Brandy (Besides Sipping, Of Course)

How familiar are you with brandy? More importantly, how familiar are you with the many uses for brandy?

What is Brandy?

The name brandy comes from a Dutch word “brandewijn,” meaning ‘burnt wine.’ Brandy is made from fermented fruits (grapes, apples, and even peaches). The fundamental difference between wine and brandy is that the latter goes through a distillation process that raises the alcohol content. Normally, the alcohol content is between 35% and 60% by volume. The next step after distillation involves bottling them in oak barrels to age and add flavor.

How about Cognac?

Cognac is a type of brandy produced in the the southwestern commune of France with the same name. However, enthusiasts hold cognac in high regard due to the qualification process it passes through. The grapes need to be from a specific region, and distillation only occurs at certain times of the year. The longer the cognac aged, the more highly regarded and expensive it is. Curious about what cognac tastes like? Here is a description.

There are other types of brandy based on the region from which grapes are sourced. Armagnac is a type of brandy distilled from grapes grown in the Armagnac region. It is famed for its fruity taste and normally has a higher alcohol content than cognac.

Brandy de Jerez comes from the Jerez region of Spain and goes through a different aging method called solera. It’s matured in sherry casks as opposed to oak barrels leading to the brandy taking on a distinctly red shade. Besides grapes, there are variations of Brandy de Jerez made from peaches, cherries, and apples too.

Other famous brandy-producing regions include Normandy in France, where Calvados brandy originates. Pisco brandy is made from grapes grown in Peru and the world-famous Chilean wine country.

How to Enjoy Brandy

Over the centuries, brandy has been viewed as a late-evening or an after-meal drink. Its alcohol content tends to warm the body while calming the drinker. It also relaxes your stomach lining, helping you to sleep better.

However, if you do not enjoy sipping brandy during dinner or after, there are other ways to use and experience the benefits of the over 7-century-old distilled drink. Here are ten uses for brandy you can definitely appreciate.

1. Easing Respiratory Infections

Brandy has a long history of use in the medical industry. In fact, in 1919, when there were tight controls on alcohol supply in the US, doctors lobbied for the right to prescribe alcohol in certain medical cases.

Brandy helps ease respiratory issues such as coughs and sore throats. Due to its high alcohol content, brandy can help eliminate bacteria from the respiratory system and loosen phlegm. The next time you experience a cough, a glass of brandy could be your expectorant. A quick way to make this would be to add a shot of your brandy of choice to warm water in a glass before adding a few drops of lemon, honey, ginger syrup, or cinnamon. In fact, this could be a routine as you settle down in the evening before going to bed.

2. Brandy Acts as an Antioxidant

It has been shown that brandy contains antioxidants that reduce the inflammation of body cells. This results from the oak barrels in which brandy ages. Antioxidants help rid the body of free radicals, that are themselves the product of cellular metabolism. Free radicals are associated with cellular death in the hair, internal organs, and skin too.

In the long term, brandy could prevent the hastening of aging symptoms such as wrinkles, inhibited vision, and cognitive difficulties.

Some research also suggests that brandy helps in increasing high-density lipoproteins (HDL) in the body. HDL is good cholesterol because it does not inhibit the flow of blood in the veins.

3. Brandy as a Sedative

The high alcoholic content in brandy gives it tranquilizing properties. In the past, physicians have prescribed and found uses for brandy as a pleasing depressant for sick people who were experiencing pain, discomfort, impulses, and worries.

Brandy helps people sleep better and has knock-on positive effects on the immune system. The antibacterial properties also help to eliminate disease-causing pathogens from your digestive system, leading to less frequency in the occurrence of immunity-related illnesses.

Still, it is important to note that excessive consumption of brandy could have negative ramifications for a patient’s physical health.

4. Brandy in Perfumes

The connection between luxury spirits and high-end perfumes has gone on for decades. Brandy has been paired with other elements to come up with complex and highly sophisticated designer scents. If you love the scent of well-aged brandy, you can shop for a perfume that has those brandy notes that you would otherwise only get from pouring a shot of your favorite drink.

Alcoholic fragrances normally contain 70-92% alcohol by volume and yet they do not alter other scents from the perfume concentrate. The ethanol is also stable, meaning it’s safe for use on normal skin.

5. Brandy as a Disinfectant

When it comes to folk remedies, you have probably heard that certain liquors can be used as disinfectants if needs must. Well, this is only somewhat true. To be fully potent as a disinfectant, brandy or vodka would need to have at least 60% alcohol content.

During the Covid pandemic, Serbia turned to a consignment of brandy from a bankrupt distillery to process 10,000 bottles into disinfectant. The initiative helped hospitals reduce disinfectant shortages in hospitals. In many other countries, distilleries volunteered to use some of their production capacities to boost the production of sanitizers.

6. Brandy-Infused Pastry

It is a common practice in the pastry world to use brandy to infuse cakes when preparing the cake mix. One common recipe in British pastry is to pair golden raisins with brandy when making Eccles Cakes or Fly Cake. Brandy helps to bring out the taste in raisins and nutmeg, which are also part of the recipe.

You could also infuse cupcakes with brandy once they are ready to add a sophisticated scent and taste. Once the cupcakes are ready, use a toothpick to poke some holes and then drizzle some brandy and let the cakes sit for a while. Do not serve these cupcakes to children because the taste might be a little too harsh.

If you are feeling confident, how about you try some brandy-infused breakfast crepes. Adding a couple of shots of brandy into your vanilla-flavored flour mix would be a great way to set off a lazy weekend. If you are entertaining guests for brunch, these crepes would have them asking questions.

7. Brandy in Roasts

It’s quite common for people to find uses for brandy, including to add a flavor and aroma to their roasted steaks. A quick recipe would include some fried onions, garlic paste, and some flour to add thickness to the sauce. Once the onions are done, add some brandy to enrich the taste. Brandy-infused sauces are quite popular in South African braai culture.

8. Cleaning Jewelry with Brandy

Pour a little brandy in a small bowl, just enough so that your ring or other piece of jewelry is fully covered. Leave it to rest for a few minutes, and before removing it from the bowl and letting the alcohol evaporate by itself. You need not rinse with water.

You could buy rubbing alcohol from the store for home use, but a small amount from your brandy bottle works just fine. The caveat here, though, is that your jewelry should be made out of certain metals so that wiping or contact with alcohol does not take away their shine. Gold, silver, platinum, stainless steel, and tungsten should be fine to clean this way.

9. DIY Room Deodorizer

One of the many uses for brandy include DIY home applications. Did you know that you could make your own room deodorizer tailored to your liking? If you appreciate the scent of a particular brandy, you could make it a theme in the bar area or any other room in your house. Pour a sufficient amount of brandy into a spray bottle, then add several drops of essential oil. This can be a quick way to mask unpleasant smells in your house.

10. Deco and Accessorizing

If you do not enjoy sipping brandy too much, you could turn bottle collection into a hobby. Other uses for brandy involve their uniquely designed and collectible containers. You could start sourcing some rare designer brandy in your region and slowly expand. Each distillery will have a unique way of preparing their wine for distillation. The selection of fruits used as well as the barrels for aging, also affects the notes in the final product. Find out why craft spirits are so special.

After a few years, you are likely to have a great collection in the bar area of your house. Rare bottles are great conversation starters when you host guests. You could even use them as gifts and souvenirs for your guests.

How to Pick and Store Brandy in Your House

There are ways you could creatively use brandy for its flavor and potency. When you go to pick out a bottle, the intended purpose should inform how much you spend.

When you want to make a brandy-based sauce for braai, there’s no need to go for the most expensive bottle. An ordinary bottle made from distilled grape-wine will do for home recipes. Cognacs should be saved for special occasions and are ordinarily never meant to be used in food.

It’s also important to differentiate what the labels on brandy bottles mean with regards to the age of the drink.

  • VS means very special, and the drink was aged for at least two years in barrels before being bottled. These drinks are what mixologists use in brandy-based cocktails.
  • VSOP is an abbreviation for ‘very superior old pale’. These drinks are sometimes marked as ‘Reserve’ and have been aged for a minimum of four years.
  • XO (extra old) is also called Napoleon, an ode to the famous French emperor. Brandies labeled XO have been aged for at least six years.
  • Bottles labeled Hors d’Age have been aged for decades and will normally retail handsomely. They are best enjoyed neat, and are great collectors’ items because of their rarity. You can also tell a brandy is aged for decades by the darker color compared to a VS for instance. 

Storing Brandy

The alcohol content in brandy means that it can last forever, if unopened. However, you can still enjoy a bottle of brandy for weeks after opening it, if shelved properly. It is advisable to store brandy bottles in a cool, dry, and preferably dark place in an upright position. Leaving the bottle unopened might lead to the drink developing some off-flavors.

How Much Brandy is Enough?

There is a consensus that consuming too much brandy, or any other liquor, will eventually wipe out any perceived positive effects. Health practitioners recommend that you should not take more than two drinks a day while women should limit themselves to one. 1.25-ounces of brandy counts as one drink. 

Curiosity will lead you to discover new ways to enjoy and uses for brandy, especially in meals and cocktails. Over time, you will find out which brandy pairs well with what flavors. Happy experimenting!

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