Brandy Cocktails

The return of cold weather is a good reason to remember that brandy—the most warming of spirits—played a formative role in the development of mixology. Already a key libation in colonial America, fruit distillates rivaled whiskey and gin in 19th century. What better season to ease them back in?

The Sazerac, hailing from New Orleans, not surprisingly was born of Cognac. Sweet brandy helped the medicinal bitters go down. Later, a shortage of Cognac allowed spicy rye into the mix.

  • 1 tsp sugar syrup
  • Absinthe or anise pastis 
  • 3 dashes Peychaud bitters
  • 2 1/2 oz Cognac

Chill an Old-Fashioned glass and coat inside with absinthe. Muddle sugar and bitters in a mixing glass. Stir in Cognac and ice. Strain into Old-Fashioned glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

The French 75 was named for an artillery gun of World War I. In dispute is the spirit base. The name suggests going French, but gin is common practice (with emphasis on common).

  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tsp powdered sugar
  • 2 oz Armagnac or Cognac
  • Champagne

Shake lemon juice, sugar and brandy with ice. Strain over ice into a Collins glass. Fill with Champagne.

The Jack Rose is now largely forgotten, but was once important enough to be listed as one of the six basic cocktails by drinks theorist David A. Embury (The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks).

  • 1/4 oz grenadine
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 2 oz apple brandy or Calvados

Shake over ice. Pour into cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist.

The Brandy Crusta and The Sidecar (pictured) are almost indentical but for glass presentations. The Crusta contains dashes of Maraschino liqueur and bitters. To make the Sidecar, leave out the dashes from this Crusta recipe and use a cocktail glass.

  • 2 oz Armagnac or Cognac
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz triple sec
  • 2 dashes Maraschino liqueur
  • 2 dashes bitters

Stir ingredients with ice. Strain into a wine glass. Garnish with a lemon spiral encircling the inside of the glass.