After - Dinner Brandy n00b
August 22, 2011 7:05 PM   Subscribe

Liquor Question - The boyfriend and I want to get into after-dinner brandy. We are complete noobs. Any tips on what kind of (affordable) brandy to get and any tips on the best way to drink it (mixers, etc) would be greatly appreciated.
posted by AngryLlama to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not a big brandy drinker, but St. Remy is a decent tipple if you're starting out. If you can spring extra for some Benedictine you can create your own divine B&B.
posted by Paragon at 7:39 PM on August 22, 2011

I'm a fan of Korbel. It's probably the Bacardi of brandy, but I like it, and it's the only liquor I can drink straight. Before I got into Korbel I didn't like dark liquor at all and was really surprised to find I like sipping it.
posted by catatethebird at 7:48 PM on August 22, 2011

I love Calvados; it's French apple brandy. It's best as is. I don't know of any brandy that would be mixed when enjoyed after dinner.

I'm also very fond of the California-made Germain-Robin brandies. They make a few different styles at different price points.
posted by shoesietart at 7:50 PM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't drink any more but when I did Remy Martin was the cognac of choice. It's definitely worth spending a few extra $$$ not to drink the crappy stuff.

I would drink it in a brandy glass, you're supposed to swill it around to warm it up in order to inhale the vapours (which adds significantly to the taste).

If you buy Remy I'd forget about the mixers.
posted by carter at 8:15 PM on August 22, 2011

What's the appeal of brandy, specifically? Is it the big brandy snifter and the smoking jacket? IMO adding a mixer kind of destroys the old skool vibe, as well as the role of an after dinner drink, which should be a bracing and alcoholic tonic to aid the digestion. Perhaps you can try a fine, dry madeira or sherry, which are more accessible but equally sophisticated, when sipped in your library discussing Kant after enjoying a nice mutton chop at the club.
posted by yarly at 8:18 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't drink brandy with a mixer. It's nice after dinner. If ordering at a restaurant, maybe try it with a creme brulee for dessert. Don't go for the waming the snifter thing--apparently that just damages the brandy. The brandies from the particular area where the traditional grapes grow (for the french version) are called 'cognac.' The two best know brands are Remy Martin and Courvoisier. I can't tell the difference between them but they taste interesting and nice. To save money, you can try brandies from Spain or South Africa.
posted by Paquda at 8:45 PM on August 22, 2011

There is brandy in a Sidecar, a fine cocktail if you want to punctuate drinking the brandy neat.
posted by rhizome at 9:32 PM on August 22, 2011

Dunno if this would be out of your "affordable" range, but I highly recommend Kelt, neat, for a smooth, smooth experience.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 10:34 PM on August 22, 2011

I'm partial every now and then to Osborne or Soberano, which are Spanish. They're not the kind of brandies you have in a snifter at the end of a degustation in the city; they're more the kind of brandy you have after a quick spaghetti bolognaise and salad you made after work. If you're that kind of cook, they're that kind of drink.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 10:42 PM on August 22, 2011

Somewhat before cognac became popular, Armangac was being distilled in southwest France. Armangac is still made in far smaller quantities than cognac, and while there is a lot of cheap VS (2 year aged in cask) Armangac sold, a good bottle of XO or Hors d'Age Armangac (aged 6 or 10 years or more in cask) commands a premium price, when you can find it. Generally, Armangac has a much more woody, less sweet taste than cognac, and even the smoothest Armangac will have more "bite" in its flavor than cognac.

But on winter's coldest nights, nothing chases the shivers like a glass of Armangac.
posted by paulsc at 1:05 AM on August 23, 2011

The term you are looking for is that you want to try brandy as a digestif. Digestifs are, to the best of my knowledge, always sipped neat (no mixing, no ice). Don't pour yourself a lot (roughly 1.5 oz), but pour it into a glass with enough room to hold the aroma that comes off the liquor. Snifters probably aren't the best, but a smaller white wine glass would work fine, as would an old fashioned glass. If you want something a bit more specialized for the task, look into grappa or cordial glasses (e.g. this picture on wikipedia).

I don't have any particular brand recommendations, since what you can buy is very dependent on where you are. I'd probably suggest a cognac at first, as they are smoother and perhaps a bit sweeter than a lot of other styles of brandy. Very good, and sometimes very complex, but not as aggressive if you're not used to sipping spirits. The other good choice, in my opinion, are fruit brandies, also called eaux de vie. Calvados, an aged apple brandy from Normandy, is often excellent, but one can find all sorts of other distilled fruits, especially plum and pear. Clear Creek Distillery out of Portland, Oregon does a number of amazingly good ones.

If you can, though, try before buying a bottle. None of us know your taste, which is what matters at the end of the day. Considering the range in quality and style of what's out there, find yourself a good bar that has a number of offerings and order a few between you and your boyfriend. Talk to the bartender about what you like and don't like and let them help you. Consider it an investment in not getting a bottle of something you don't actually like.
posted by Schismatic at 1:22 AM on August 23, 2011

You may find that you really enjoy port wine as an after dinner drink. I find that it goes especially well a square or two of a nice dark chocolate. Many people refer to port as a sherry although it is technically not one. When we first started drinking after-dinner drinks port was our favorite and still remains high on our list.

I'd also second shoesietart's suggestion of Calvados. It is also more accessible than many other styles. My absolute favorite brandys are Asbach Uralt from Germany and Clear Creek mentioned above by Schismatic which are generally not very expensive. I'm sure I'd like the Remy Martin XO stuff better, but at $200 a bottle I'm trying not to find out.
posted by Lame_username at 1:53 AM on August 23, 2011

Brandy mixes very nicely with Port, my experience is that this is liked by a surprisingly large fraction of the people who try it. Worth experimenting until you get a ratio you are comfortable with.
posted by biffa at 2:43 AM on August 23, 2011

Third on Calvados. Be careful though that Calvados is a style of brandy not a brand. I've found Boulard Calvados to be very nice for sipping on its own.

In other fruit brandies (or eau de vie), I like Kirschwasser (favor German or Swiss varieties, not French and if you can find Eter, buy it) especially with cheese fondue or with a fruit dessert. Same goes with Pear Williams.
posted by plinth at 3:23 AM on August 23, 2011

Marquis de Villard is a surprisingly drinkable and shockingly affordable brandy. Again, don't mix it, but you can add a wee bit of water. (When I have a cold Mr. Oohisay prepares warm brandy with lemon. Let's just say I look forward to having a cold.)
posted by oohisay at 4:06 AM on August 23, 2011

Calvados is delicious and will cost you slightly less, I think, than brandy of similar quality. I'd get a bottle of that and a midrange bottle of brandy to start and see, if you finish them, about getting more or different bottles from there.
posted by Aizkolari at 5:46 AM on August 23, 2011

Almost all of the men on one side of my family drink Brandy Manhattans as their drink of choice. Two measures Christian Brothers brandy, one measure Martinie & Rossi sweet vermouth, one marichino cherry, and a splash of cherry juice. The traditional recipe also uses a dash of bitters, omitted in my family's version.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:47 AM on August 23, 2011

I'm a fan of Tuaca, an Italian liqueur with a brandy base. It's great as a replacement or complement for the cognac in a sidecar.
posted by Iridic at 9:00 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm sure this is going to be the most affordable recommendation you'll get, so you might want to start with it. E&J V.S.O.P. It's about $14 around me. Do not get V.S. because that is unpalatable.

People who are telling you that if you want to enjoy a postprandial brandy, you want to drink it are correct. If you want to try being incorrect, mix it with some apple juice. Mix it with some apple juice and microwave it. Mix it with some apple juice, stick a cinnamon stick in it, then microwave it.
posted by oreofuchi at 9:06 AM on August 23, 2011

I too enjoy the Tuaca from time to time. It is Italian brandy with some citrus and vanilla notes added to it. Very sippable.
posted by mmascolino at 10:32 AM on August 23, 2011

It's really too hot for it at the moment IMHO but I do love a Stinger in the cooler months.
posted by screamingnotlaughing at 11:17 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hi all, thanks for the great suggestions. I decided to try Calvados and Tuaca, unfortunately the liquor store I went to didn't have either. I'm still searching for those but in the meantime I got a small bottle of Paul Masson VSOP brandy and tried it last night. It was quite delicious. Thanks again, for your help!
posted by AngryLlama at 11:29 AM on August 29, 2011

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