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Brandy / Cognac

All Cognac is brandy, but not all Brandy is Cognac. Brandy & Cognac is wine that has been distilled. The most important thing to know is that all Cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is Cognac. Brandy is made from any fruit anywhere. That is why you see several flavors of brandy like apple, peach, blackberry, etc. Cognac (cone-YAK) is only made from three grapes grown in the Cognac region of France; Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche, and Colombard.


Cognac is distilled twice then aged in oak casks made from 100 year old Limousin or Troncais oak trees that grow in Cognac. The aging process is very expensive because almost 60% of the Cognac evaporates.


When Cognac is aging underground, 60% evaporates. The evaporation in the air is called the Angel's Share. They say that when you visit Cognac, you can actually smell the evaporating Cognac in the air from the casks below.


Popular Cognac brandsare; Courvoisier (core-VAS-see-A) , Hennessy (HEN-na-see) , Martell (mar-TELL), and Remy Martin.


King Louis the XIII produced by Remy Martin is considered the King of Cognacs. Only grapes from the Grande Champagne region are used and it's aged in barrels that are several hundred years old. It can range in age from 40 to 100 years and it's packaged in a Baccarat crystal bottle. It sells for $2500 or more and in bars across the globe it can sell for $200-$300 a serving.



Every Cognac bottle is graded and the grade is put on the label. Maurice Hennessey was the first to begin a labeling system for Cognacs in 1865. The grades include:

VS = Very Special also known as "three star" and aged for a minimum of 3 years.
VSOP = Very Superior Old Pale also known as "five star" and ages for five years. 
XO = Extra Old aged for six plus years.


Courvoisier is said to be Napoleon’s favorite Cognac. 


Grand Marnier is a Cognac-based orange liqueur that was invented in 1880 by Louis Alexandre Marnier-Lapostolle.


The word brandy comes from the Dutch word brandewijn, meaning burnt wine.

Brandy has a short-stemmed big bowled curvy glass named after it called a brandy snifter. Another taller stemmed glass is used in high-end bars called a tulip glass.

Spanish missionaries brought brandy to California.

The most popular grape brandies are; Armagnac, (ar-mahn-YAK) and Pisco (PEE-skoh) from South America. Armagnac (ar-mahn-YAK) Fine French Brandy from Gascony. Cognac’s only real rival. Comes in Three Star, V.S.O.P, Napoleon, Extra, and Hors d’ Age. 


Armagnac is a high-end brandy made from grapes in the Armagnac region of France.

Armagnac is the oldest distilled wine in France, dating back to the 1300s It is the only true rival of Cognac.

Only ten varieties of grapes are authorized to be used for Armagnac.

The most popular fruit brandies are; applejack from America, Calvados (KAL-vah-dohs) apple brandy from France, Framboise (frahm-BWAHZ) raspberry brandy from France, Kirsch (KEERSH) cherry brandy from Germany, Poire (PWAHR) a Swiss pear brandy, and Slivovitz (SLIHV-uh-vihts) a German plum brandy.

Pomace Brandy is made from the residue of wine, stems and seeds. The most popular are Grappa (GRAHP-pah) from Italy, and Marc from France. 

The most popular drinks made with brandy are; Stinger, Brandy Alexander, Apricot Sour, Between the Sheets, French 75, and Sidecar.


Some bars only serve 1 1/2 ounces and others serve 2 ounces pricing accordingly. Still others turn a brandy snifter on its side and pour until the spirit reaches the rim then sets back upright. Brandy snifters can range from 5 ounces to 23 ounces.

Photo by Alexas_Fotos Pixabay / CC0 Creative Commons

Brandy & Cognac in Film

1942 Casablanca 

Madeleine LeBeau drinks brandy from the boss’s private stock). A German officer orders French 75s from Sascha the Russian bartender, and then Madeleine LeBeau says to the bartender, “Put up a whole row of them, Sascha… starting here and ending here.” The German officer says, “We’ll begin with two.” 


1947 The Bishop’s Wife

Cary Grant as Dudley the Angel orders a round of Stingers while lunching with ladies from the church.


1948 The Big Clock

Ray Milland orders a Stinger and several raise glasses of Stingers for a honeymoon toast. 


1950 In a Lonely Place

Morris Ankrum orders a Stinger. 

1952 Moulin Rouge

Jose Ferrer plays famous French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who is given free Cognac and drinks in exchange for painting posters. 


1956 High Society

Gordon Richards makes Stingers for Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and anyone who needs some “hair of the dog.”


1957 Kiss Them for Me

Cary Grant and Jayne Mansfield drink Stingers. He says, “Stingers, and keep them coming.” 

1958 Auntie Mame 

Cognac is mentioned.

1960 The Apartment

Stingers are mentioned several times. 


1961 Days of Wine and Roses

Jack Lemmon orders Lee Remick a Brandy Alexander.

1983 Gorky Park

William Hurt says the Stinger is a whore’s drink. Later, he orders a Stinger and says, “I am a whore.” 

1988 Beaches

Bette Midler orders a Stinger twice. 

1988 Cocktail 

King Louis XIII is part of a bet and drunk between Tom Cruise and Bryan Brown. 


2008 Two Lovers

Joaquin Phoenix orders a Brandy Alexander.

2015 100 Years

John Malkovich and Robert Rodriguez put a bottle of King Louis XIII Cognac into a time capsule, and the planned release date is November 18, 2115. 

Brandy & Cognac in Books

1869 Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain 

“Give us a brandy smash!” 


1872 Narrative of a Voyage Round the World, Sir Edward Belcher 

“And then Captain Bening made us a Champagne Cocktail. Half a tumbler of champagne, a little brandy, a little bitters, a little sugar.” 


1933 Winner Take Nothing, Ernest Hemingway 

Brandy is mentioned. 

1939 Uncle Fred in the Springtime, P.G. Wodehouse 

Brandy is mentioned

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