Somewhere along the way, brandy got a reputation as a fancy drink that you should sip from snifters (you shouldn’t, by the way). But affordable, entry-level brandies make wonderful mixers that wouldn’t be out of place at your next house party or backyard barbecue. While they range from bright and fruity to rich and caramelly, brandies are pretty universally mixable and work for any season. But to get you started, here are a few of our favorite go-to mixers for the spirit.
While this pairing might seem like a given, we have to mention it because the two go so well together. The overt fruity notes of the spirit bring a playful sweetness to the Highball that you won’t get with rum or whiskey, while the caramel and vanilla of the barrel-aged booze create that perfect pairing for cola you know and love.
Citrus perks up caramel-heavy brandies by drawing out fruity notes and creating an easy sipper for the summer months. It also pairs wonderfully with pisco—the unaged brandy from Peru and Chile—to create a sort of long Pisco Sour.
There are a few recipes floating around for the Champagne Cocktail (ours, taken from Professor Jerry Thomas, keeps it simple with bitters, sugar and bubbly). But one of the most popular includes brandy, which makes for a wonderful combination of grape-based booze. Brandy mixed with the tight bubbles of the Champagne creates a velvety texture, while the yeasty notes of the bubbly wonderfully overlay brandy’s fruity flavor.
There are plenty of options when it comes to spiking iced tea, but brandy is a no-brainer. Pick an appropriate fruit brandy—like peach—for the Southern staple, mix up a pitcher, and take it out to the porch for the ultimate all-day summer sipper.
The two-ingredient classic French Connection may not get much respect (too many overly sweet versions have undermined the integrity of this fruity, nutty cocktail), but when made right, it’s a total dream. French Cognac makes the cocktail even more luscious than its American whiskey-based cousin, the Godfather, but you could experiment with different brandies to take this Francophile tipple on a trip around the world.
There’s a reason saint bernards famously rescued avalanche victims with mini kegs of brandy—the spirit is perfect for warming up after hours spent in the snow (all right, the boozy saint bernard rescue brigade is a myth, but we’d happily get saved by a brandy-toting pup anytime). Usually sipped in a glass by the fire, a heavy glug of brandy is also the secret to a killer spiked hot chocolate, the perfect break from the whiskey and rum you find in most other boozy cocoas.