Brandy has been a staple in your Nans cupboard since as early as the 15th century as a distilled beverage drank after dinner or sometimes just before lunch. The spirit category was catapulted into the minds of nobles, gentry and the mobs alike by the ascendancy of the French throughout the 16th century.
Sailors stuck on ships were paid in brandy and we would assume while swigging from the bottle had some charm, the artistic notions of mixing brandy while aboard a merchant ship sailing to the Africa’s or the Caribbean would’ve abounded.
So, while we are all stuck at home, struck down by a virus that has bought most of the western world to its knees, why not peer into the back of your liquor cabinet and dust off that fabled bottle of brandy that’s been there since you moved into your apartment and if there is nothing there then have we got a treat for you. Brandy is a perfect libation while social distancing, talking to your cat or screaming Metallica out your window.
Brandy is versatile, robust and satisfies the nuances of many a cocktail. Whether you are shaking, stirring or straight sipping, brandy can satisfy most criteria for a well-lubricated evening. Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern has narrowed in on brandy, and more specifically cognac, as its spirit of choice because of the category’s versatility and straight-up boujee-ness while pouring shots for guests while they guzzle a shit tin. Not many if any other bars in Australia had jumped on this spirit category and gin, whisk(e)y and tequila had been done many a time over. The ascendency of brandy has arrived.
If readers know their spirits history and the advent of the cocktail, I’m sure many of us can dip into the vast bastion of cocktail books, zines and handwritten notes since 1806 to double-check the spec on some vastly unknown and forgotten bracer. These would most probably have had brandy as its base spirit. Brandy was widely popular, easily sought and because of it could either stand up in a drink by itself or be swizzled along with fresh juice, tinctures or other spirits and draw all flavours towards it, made it indispensable to the home bar, hotel bar and even the speakeasy.
Today we have a vast array of brandies to choose from and only so many to fit into our ever-growing liquor cabinet. An arbitrary look at my top 5 would be widdled down to the following mostly because they stand the test of shooting them down with a raging hangover.
A mid-range staple in any backbar. Lesser known than Hennessey VSOP but still in the echelon of one of the big four houses of cognac. Martell VSOP is perfect for stirring down a Sazerac. Aromatic, rounded and woody characteristics fill out your glass and accentuate the anise from the mist of absinthe that is synonymous with the classic Sazerac cocktail.
St Agnes VS Brandy
An Aussie classic! These are the sauce that sits in nannas cupboard and can be swigged while using it for cooking pudding. Definitely a beginner brandy. Distilled from selected cask wines and rested in small oak casks. Sharp and punchy.
Chateau Du Breuil Apple Brandy
The forgotten middle child, between brandy and Cognac. Apple brandy is perfect for banging our long tall, fresh drinks as it provides some weight to the texture and mouthfeel. Good for a punch or a swizzle. Use liberally.
Pierre Ferrand Renegade Barrel
Premium, one-off barrelling aged in a combination of classic oak casks and chestnut-wood barrels, rather than just oak, this rich and softly sweet eau-de-vie de vin can’t be called ‘Cognac’ because of the barrels used. It’ll spin your evening into a frenzy with a big whack of the good stuff coming in at 47.1%
Last but not least… Sullivans Cove Purple Rain
Blended by yours truly down in Tassie. We sat from 9am till 5pm slogging through 18 different barrels, all between 50-80% abv and blended 5 of these. Sultry and smooth yet powerful, like Prince himself, it comes in at 53.7% and coats your mouth as if Prince were doing the splits on your tongue. Can be savoured at Rascal or Deuce at your pleasure.
Remember, always enjoy liberally and responsibly.