I’ve been behind the bar many a time when a customer has asked for The Rose or Charles H. Baker’s venerable Remember The Maine, which both call for cherry brandy, and expected a cocktail with a sweet cherry taste.
But the spirits in these drinks do not resemble sugary liqueurs in the least, and their distinctive and sharp notes often come as a surprise. In brandies, fruit itself is fermented and then distilled instead of being used solely for flavoring. These potent tipples, which are typically unaged, harken back to an old-world era of quaffable digestifs, whether enjoyed in the rustic countryside or served from decanters as an escape from urban chaos.
The range of these fruit-based spirits is both historic and plentiful, with many styles originating across Eastern Europe and the Balkans (think slivovitz, made from plums). However the best-known types to reach our shores are apple and pear eaux-de-vie from France — and there are remarkable American brandies, too. These include the traditional applejack as well as alcohol produced from grapes, raspberries, blackcurrants, and more.
The fruit’s variety and a particular season’s harvest provide individual characteristics and texture to the finished liquor as well as clear and dense aromas. Perhaps most important, of course, is the sugar content of the fruit. It is, after all, the sugars that will be fermented and turned into alcohol.
Authentic brandies were formerly considered too pricey for mixed drinks but are now on a bit of a cocktail comeback. At the Shanty, my bar at the New York Distilling Company, we have experimented with fruit brandies to gratifying results. The simple key is that a little goes a long way. Cheers!
Click here for the recipe for the Cannibal Corpse Revivor.
Allen Katz is the director of mixology & spirits education for Southern Wine & Spirits of New York and co-founder of the New York Distilling Company. He is also a Liquor.com advisory board member.
This story was originally published at Cheat Sheet: Fruit Brandy. For more stories like this, subscribe to Liquor.com for the best in all things cocktails and spirits.
Salmon with Blackberry Brandy Sauce
The ebony-blue, bursty blackberry fruit was just too pretty to pass up at the market the other day, so I picked up 2 pints, one for breakfast (plain yogurt with a generous drizzle of honey and then topped with the berries) and the other pint to experiment with. I was thinking: Sauce. Brandy. Salmon.
But that night, disaster. Three times I had failed to concoct a stellar sauce. First, too candy sweet, then too annoyingly seedy and the last attempt, I had accidentally added brandy in twice, way too boozy. With no more blackberries to play with, what&rsquos a defeated cook to do, but collapse in a pathetic, wilted heap on the kitchen floor and slam shots of the last tragedy. I gave up.
&ldquoAy ya&hellipyoung grasshoppa, learn from your mistakes, you will.&rdquo Okay, so sure, that voice sounded more Yoda than Confucious, but I really did stop and think about what is that one thing that makes someone a great cook. Because it&rsquos not culinary education (Me ain&rsquot got none), experience in a restaurant (never worked at one before), nor is it the ability to follow recipes to the &ldquoT&rdquo (can barely color inside the lines, much less follow instructions.)
And then it came to me after trickling down the last bit of blackberry sauce. The element that I was missing was that sour tang, a bright note to cut the sweetness in the sauce and tame the saltiness of the fish. &ldquoAh-ha, grasshoppa! Balance flavors, you must.&rdquo The reason why Thai and Vietnamese food is so appealing is that every single dish is a harmonious balance of sweet, salty, sour and spicy, or as it&rsquos known and easy to remember, the &ldquofour S&rsquos&rdquo
I grabbed the kids and took off to the market to buy more blackberries, returned home and tried again. Pachinko! Sauce, splendidly harmonized in my Salmon with Blackberry Brandy Sauce.
Making Fruit Brandy
This is my basic fruit wine and brandy recipe, from fruit selection to fermenter, to still, to aging, to blending, to the bottle, then your belly.
Works for all fruits!
*With watermelon, it’s a 1:1 juice to water ratio.
*With bananas, mash them up into 1/4" chunks.
*The bananas are perfectly ripe when they have lots of small freckles, and there's a little bit of green still around the stem.
•One part fruit juice to two parts water and 2.5- 3 pounds of cane sugar per gallon of mash.
•Select only good, ripe fruit. Cut out any soft spots, and don’t use any with mold on it. The more ripe and better tasting the fruit, the better the wine, the better the brandy.
•Cut your fruit up into chunks and puree it in a blender. Some fruits that are more pulpy, like apples, need some water added to loosen it up. You only need to add a cup or so.
•Strain the puree into the fermenter through a strainer or a jelly bag. You can find them on Amazon.
•Add your sugar to the juice and stir it in until it’s mostly dissolved.
•Put all of the pulp into a stock pot, then add enough water to cover the pulp, about an inch above the pulp.
•Boil the pulp for about 30 minutes, then strain the liquid into the fermenter.
•Top it up with the remainder of your water and let it cool to 80°F.
•If you’re using distiller’s yeast, pitch it now.
•If you’re using wine yeast, get your starter ready according to the directions on the sachet. When the time is up, stir it up real good and pitch it.
•Thoroughly stir in the yeast, then cover and airlock it.
•If you’re using distiller’s yeast, it should go 5- 8 days.
•If you’re using wine yeast, it should go 10- 14 days.
•Once it stops bubbling, check on it a few times a day for three days to be sure it’s stopped. Thump on it with the heel of your fist a few times to help work out the CO2.
•Now set it up on a counter or workbench and don’t touch it for 7 or 8 days. Let it settle.
•Siphon it off into a clean, sanitized fermenter, being very careful not to disturb the sediment on the bottom. Leave a half inch of liquid in the bottom to be sure you don’t suck up any sediment.
•Reserve some of the wine to blend back with the distillate. (For example: I usually reserve a gallon and a half and run about 8.5 or 9 gallons. I get a gallon and a half of 120 proof booze out of it. I’ll blend a gallon with the booze and have 2.5 gallons of fruit brandy.)
•Pour your wine into the still and slowly bring it up to heat. It should take about an hour to start dripping.
•Collect one fluid ounce per gallon of wash in the still, then make your head cut. For example: If you have five gallons of wash, collect the first five fluid ounces that drip out. Use it to light your grill.
•As you collect the hearts of your run, pour all of the booze in one big container to blend the whole run. This balances the flavor and proof.
•Run it down to 80 proof and make your tail cut. The final proof of the whole run blended should be around 120- 125. Usually about 122.
•Now run it down to 40 proof and shut it down. Save the tails to re-distill later.
•I do not carbon filter brandy. It takes out some flavor elements.
•Sweeten the wine with cane sugar just enough to bring out the fruit flavor, not enough to make into Kool-Aid.
•Blend the wine into the booze until it tastes right to you. Cut it almost in half.
•After you siphon it off the first time, let it settle for a month and siphon it off, then another month and siphon again. The clear wine will have a cleaner flavor when you distill it without all of that yeast.
•Reserve some wine and run the rest.
•Age the distillate for two or three months with un-charred white oak chips.
•Once the booze is nicely aged, siphon off the wine again and sweeten it to taste, then blend it.
The short process only takes a month, and makes fantastic brandy.
The optional process takes a total of 5- 6 months, but makes a phenomenal brandy
Friendship Brandied Fruit Starter and Cake Recipes
Brandied fruit is fruit that&aposs soaked in brandy and sugar until it is fermented. The fermented fruit may be used in cake mixes, drizzled over ice cream, pies, and pound cake or any way you desire! In our house, it&aposs a holiday tradition for Christmas and other holidays.
Brandy is distilled from fermented fruit, it has been around since about the 12th century.
It makes a wonderful gift to share for any occasion. Place in a pretty jar, attach a ribbon and a tag giving ways they can serve it!
My mom gave a starter of the Friendship Brandied Fruit and the Amish Friendship Bread! They both are so good, I love doing anything with cooking! Well, I do like to eat too!
Have fun, share enjoy and make new friends!
Look for a spot in your kitchen to keep the jar at room temperature. You can find at Walmart a large jar or crock for making your brandied fruit. You do need to give it care and feeding daily which only takes a minute or two.
DISTILLING YOUR WINE
Before you start distilling it’s important for you to understand how to make cuts for heads, hearts and tails and the temperatures at which various compounds present in your wash including ethanol, methanol, acetone and Propanol evaporate. I wrote this guide to cuts and fractions that will explain this in more detail. I suggest reading that guide before proceeding.
STEP #1 – To get it going, you can turn the heat on high, but as soon as the alcohol starts dripping out of the spout, turn down the heat. Don’t let the contents get too hot, it doesn’t need to boil, just a nice steady simmer. It is also important at this time that you do not let the contents drip out too quickly. The slower the drip, the better the brandy. You should aim for 1 drop per 1-3 seconds to get a finer, more aromatic brandy.
STEP #2- The first thing that will come out will be the fore shots. This contains a toxic combination of acetone and methyl alcohol and it will smell strongly like chemicals. There will be about 7.5 ml per 1.5 liters (0.4 US gal) of wine. Discard this. Next up are the Heads, collect 750 ml and set aside. You will save this to add into your next run.
STEP #3- Once the heads have been collected, the next liquid to come out will be the hearts. The hearts is the good stuff. It should be clear and you will be able to smell a hint of the fruit you used in your wine. Collect the hearts in small glasses. You’ll get about 300 ml per 1.5 liters (0.4 US gal) of wine.
STEP #4- The remainder of the liquid will be the tails. The tails may look milky and will lose the fruity aroma. Discard the tails.
STEP #5- Store the hearts in a glass jar at a cool temperature. The longer you leave it, the better it will taste, so be patient. I swear it will be worth it.
You can control flavor of rum, whiskey or brandy by blending your cuts after the distilling is completed. For more information on blending your spirit run check out this Guide. I’ve gone into much more detail on distilling and how to make cuts there.
If you’ve got any questions about making brandy leave a comment, we’d love to help. If you’ve got a brandy recipe you think the world needs to know about share it! We love trying new one’s!
A Simple Syrup Cheat Sheet
Sweetness. It&rsquos one of our four main tastes (yes, five if you count umami), and it&rsquos a key component to any good drink, helping balance acid, bitterness and even booze. But have you ever tried to add sugar by the spoonful to a glass of iced coffee or a squeeze of honey directly into a cocktail shaker? Not so easy. To maximize mixing potential, sweeteners ideally need to be dissolved into syrup form, and from there, the flavoring options are endless.
Need a basic simple syrup to mix up a Mint Julep? Want to spice up a soda with a little cardamom or clove? From simple-syrup basics to formulas flavored with fruits, nuts and spices, we&rsquore sweetening our glasses with these favorite syrup recipes.
Simple Syrup This sweetener lives up to its name&mdashit&rsquos equal parts granulated sugar and water heated simply until the sugar crystals dissolve. You can even skip the heating step and shake sugar and water vigorously in a jar. Try it in cocktails like the Mint Julep or Monkey Gland or to sweeten iced coffee or tea.
Rich Simple Syrup Sweeter than basic simple syrup, rich simple syrup doubles the amount of sugar for a 2:1 ratio of granulated sugar to water. Try it in an Old Fashioned, a Carrot Daiquiri or the Long Goodbye.
Demerara Syrup (or Turbinado Syrup) The same proportions as basic simple syrup (1:1), this syrup swaps in golden-hued demerara or turbinado sugar for a deeper, almost caramel-like flavor popular in tropical drinks. Try it in The Dreamer, the Last-Minute Gift, the Barbadian Gin Punch Swizzle or the Prescription Julep.
Gomme Syrup A basic simple syrup thickened with gum arabic, gomme syrup adds a silky richness to cocktails like the Bourbon Renewal.
Honey Syrup Combine honey with ice and you get a clumpy mess in the mixing tin, but thin the honey out with hot water and you get this sultry syrup. Try it in an Airmail or the Tequila-Sage Smash.
Agave Syrup Don&rsquot confuse agave nectar with agave syrup&mdashthe nectar is the agave-based sweetener in its concentrated, right-from-the-bottle form, while the syrup dilutes the nectar into this cocktail-friendly mixer. Try it in the Trinidadian Punch or this Avocado Margarita.
Brown Sugar Syrup Brown sugar syrup adds a molasses-like richness to cocktails like the Plum Dang It and the Weekend&rsquos Prize.
Allspice Syrup These little sun-dried berries add a potent pop of spice to tiki drinks like this Gold Coast Punch.
Apricot Syrup Fresh or dried, apricots add subtle stone-fruit flavor to cocktails like the Armenian Apple, or try it splashed into a glass of iced tea.
Balsamic Vinegar Syrup Forget salad&mdashbalsamic vinegar adds a tangy depth to cocktails like the Buffala Negra when simmered down into syrup form.
Basil Syrup Got a garden full of fresh basil? Infuse the leaves into this syrup and mix up this Enchanted Dry Daiquiri.
Beet Syrup Jewel-toned beets add an earthy sweetness to cocktails like the Ox Blood.
Blueberry Syrup Harness fresh blueberry flavors in cocktails like The Blues with this summery syrup.
Burnt Orange-Peppercorn Syrup Caramelized orange zest, allspice and peppercorns form the base of this syrup that flavors cocktails like the Campari-centric Bitter End.
Celery Syrup This celery syrup adds a subtle, savory edge to cocktails like the Kalamazoo Julep.
Chamomile Syrup Sunny chamomile adds a soft tea-like quality to cocktails like the Tom Nichol.
Cherry Syrup Fresh cherry season goes by in a flash, but thankfully this syrup only relies on the juice, which is readily available year-round in bottle form. Try in the zero-proof Lux Princess.
Chocolate Syrup A soda fountain favorite, mix this chocolate syrup in a classic egg cream.
Cinnamon Syrup Add a splash of sweet heat to cocktails like the Boukman Daiquiri and The Cinnsation with this simple cinnamon syrup.
Clove Syrup Teeny cloves pack a powerful punch when infused into a fizzy Sparkling Pear Float or a steaming cuppa tea.
Dijon Syrup While it may sound better suited to a brat than a cocktail beaker, this mustard- and sweet paprika-infused syrup adds an unexpected layer of complexity to corn whiskey cocktails like the Joe Buck.
Donn&rsquos Mix Syrup Who&rsquos Donn? Only one of the most important figures of tropical cocktail culture, and the man behind this syrup that&rsquos requisite in a Zombie.
Fennel Syrup This this herbaceous syrup in the refreshing GMP Collins.
Fernet-Branca Syrup We love Fernet-Branca in any form, and this syrup simmers down its rooty goodness into a flavoring for cocktails like the Blue Jay.
Fig Syrup Get figgy with this syrup that&rsquos perfect drizzling over ice cream and mixed into cocktails like the Figgy Pudding.
Five-Spice Syrup Not one, not two, but five favorite spices flavor this syrup. Try it in the espresso-fueled St. Elizabeth or our bubbly Five-Spice Fizz.
Ginger Syrup Just add seltzer and a squeeze of lime for a fresh and zippy homemade ginger ale, or splash into cocktails like the Sleepyhead for a bright, gingery zing.
Gingerbread Syrup Simmering wintertime spices down into syrup form, this gingerbread syrup adds a concentration of holiday spice to cocktails like The Ginger Rogers.
Grenadine Syrup Homemade grenadine is a cinch to whip up at home and is worth the effort for pomegranate-rich Shirley Temples and cocktails like the Jack Rose and St. Regis Julep.
Lavender Syrup Lavender syrup is lovely in everything from fresh-squeezed lemonade to cocktails like the California Bubble Bath.
Lemon Syrup Add a sweet citrusy splash to an Angostura Phosphate or a glass of iced tea with this lemony syrup.
Mint Syrup We love to fresh mint syrup in everything from iced tea to cocktails like a pitcher of Mojitos.
Molasses Syrup Bolster cocktails like the Henry & John with a little molasses syrup.
Orgeat (Almond) Nothing says tiki time like a classic Mai Tai&mdashjust be sure to have a fresh batch of this almondy syrup on hand for mixing.
Orgeat (Pistachio) Pistachios add extra richness to this orgeat recipe.
Peppercorn Syrup Peppercorns add some savory spice to cocktails like The Slow Loris.
Pine Syrup Homemade pine syrup can lend a smack of fresh, herbaceous flavor to cocktails like this Rye and Pine Old Fashioned.
Pineapple Syrup If you want to sip cocktails like the classic Brandy Fix and this Sherry Cobbler, you&rsquoll first need to whip up a batch of this tangy pineapple syrup.
Pumpkin Spice Syrup Try a splash in your next hot toddy or mulled cider.
Raspberry Syrup This vine-fresh syrup flavors classics like the Blinker and Clover Club cocktails.
Red Wine Syrup From the wine glass to the cocktail coupe, this red wine syrup adds a vinified punch to cocktails like The Wet Grave.
Rose Syrup Delicate rose petals add a splash of floral sweetness to cocktails like the Veronica Rose.
Saffron Syrup It may be expensive, but saffron shows its worth in livening up cocktails like the Saffron-Limoncello Shandy.
Sage-Juniper Syrup Flavors of the high desert add nuance to cocktails like the New England Buck.
Sage-Peppercorn Syrup Splash some savory spice into cocktails like the Lowcountry or add to a glass of seltzer for a sophisticated herbal soda.
Strawberry Syrup This strawberry syrup packs fresh berry flavors right into crowd pleasers like the Champagne Whiskey Punch.
Strawberry Thyme Syrup Pairing the sweetness of fresh strawberries with the aromatics of fresh thyme, this strawberry-thyme syrup from Chiltern Firehouse is a delicious addition to cocktails, like the Strawberry Sigh.
Tarragon Syrup One of the culinary world&rsquos most versatile spices, this tarragon syrup flavors cocktails like the WC and Soda.
Thyme Syrup Woodsy thyme finds a home in cocktails like the Rhubarb Smash with this syrup.
Vanilla Syrup Vanilla adds its own distinctive taste to everything from cakes to cocktails, and this vanilla syrup recipe has become our go-to formula for drinks like the Luau Daiquiri and this Orange Sweet Cream Cold-Brew.
Brandied Dried Fruit
Christopher Testani for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.
The complex layers of flavor that develop from combining dried fruit, citrus, spices and brandy are the reward for an investment of time. And time does most of the work in this recipe, which produces brandied fruit that you can use in an array of dishes and drinks: A two-day soak will get you a fine infusion, but go for the full 14 to extract notes from each component. The spices need time to bloom, and the dried fruit skins plump as they are infused, absorbing the citrus’s bite and the brandy’s warmth. Use the fruit mixture in scones, cocktails and braised lamb. Or stir the drained fruit into muffin or cake batter, toss with bulkier fruit like apples or pears for use as a filling for hand pies, or serve as a relish to accompany lamb, pork or chicken. As an added bonus, the fruit mixture keeps in the refrigerator for months. Store in an airtight container and avoid adding any moisture to the jar by using only dry utensils to serve.
What Can Be Mixed With Brandy?
You can also make your own brandy based cocktails. Some good mixers for brandy include the following:
- Heavy cream, milk, or other dairy
- Coffee-flavored liqueur such as Kahlúa
- Ginger ale or ginger beer
- Orange juice
- Sweet and sour mix
- Club soda or soda water
- Cream soda
- Lemon-lime soda
- Cider or apple juice
- Orange liqueur
- Champagne, Prosecco, or sparkling wine
Decedent Christmas Fruit Cake With Brandy Sauce
Christmas is a time that we try a little harder to express love, love of friends, love of family.
What better expression of love is there than to create something with your own two hands, that you can share with everyone that will bring a little bit of joy and happiness into their lives.
Christmas cakes and Christmas fruit cake is just the thing for one to express that love.
One cannot stress this warning strong enough with this dessert.
ChristianTraditionalists believe that Christmas should be a celebration about the Birth of Christ Jesus, surrounded by family and loved ones. When one thinks of giving gifts, the best gift is if you give of yourself.
Christmas dinner would not be complete without a slice or two of Christmas Fruitcake drizzled with a hot brandy sauce, so here is a recipe to try.
One thing that is great about this recipe is that you can enjoy all of the flavor and not have to worry about the alcoholic content because the alcohol cooks off and you are left with just the decedent flavor.
You will need the following ingredients, but keep in mind that some of the measurements are to your taste and can be varied.
If you want a fruitcake that will really impress your guests, place all your fruits into a large bowl and soak them for 5 or 6 days, covered over with Brandy or Rum. The longer you permit the fruit to soak the better the flavour will become.
2 and a 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 and a 1/4 teaspoon of mixed spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, alspice, ground cloves,)
1 cup of butter (soften to room temperature)
1 and a 1/3 cups dark brown sugar
1 and a 1/4 tablespoon black molasses (slightly warmed)
3-4 drops of vanilla extract
1 and a 1/2 cups golden raisins
1 and a 1/2 cups black currants
1 and a 1/2 cups black raisins
1/3 cup chopped mixed peel
3/4 cup chopped glazed cherries (red and green)
3/4 cup of pineapple (cubed) (fresh or candied)
2/3 cup of blanched almonds or cashews chopped
1/4 cup shaved almonds (to decorate the top)
2/3 cup of walnuts chopped
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
Prep time is about 1 hour:
Cooking time is 3 -1/2 to 4 hrs.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Using a 9 inch spring form cake baking pan, place the pan on a sheet of greaseproof parchment paper and draw out a circle for the bottom of the pan cutting just inside the circle. Then cut a strip of the greaseproof parchment paper to cover the inside edge of the baking pan. Now lightly brush the base paper and side paper with some melted butter. To prevent the outside of the cake from over cooking, cut a double strip of parchment paper to fit around the outside of the baking tin and fasten it with a paper clip.
In a large mixing bowl or blender sift 1/2 your flour, salt and spices and blend with your butter. The add in your sugar and molasses and beat until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and your eggs one at a time adding a little flour with each egg to prevent curdling.
Beat thoroughly and fold in the rest of your ingredients except the remaining flour making sure they are all well mixed.
Finally fold in your remaining flour, lightly but thoroughly. Turn your mixture into your prepared baking pan and spread evenly and make a slight indent in the middle. To protect the top of your cake use a double thickness of parchment paper laid across the top.
Place the pan in the center of your oven and bake for about 3-4 hours. To check doneness, insert a toothpick or wooden skewer in the center of the cake. If it comes out clean and there is no hissing or sizzling noise cake is done.
Remove cake from oven and let sit to cool completely. Cake will shrink just a little from the edges. Once completely cooled down even cold, Remove from spring form pan onto your serving dish and voila you have a dark Christmas fruitcake fit for a king.
Now here’s what makes this Christmas fruitcake decadent. It’s a homemade sauce recipe that you can drizzle over the top to give you that mouthwatering extra special Christmas season kick.
In a medium saucepan melt together 2 -1/2 table spoons of butter and 1 -1/2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon of orange juice and some cinnamon and nutmeg to taste and bring to a boil. Add in 3 or 4 teaspoons of brandy to taste. (alcohol will burn off leaving just the flavour of the brandy. Mix a little cornstarch with cold water and carefully whisk it into the mixture a little at a time until the mixture begins to thicken like a gravy and remove from heat immediately. Drizzle this hot aromatic sauce over a slice of cooled or cold cake and then enjoy.
Please remember to warn your friends and guests incase they have alergies
What’s that mean? It either means simmered or eaten together. To make a big tzimmes means to make a fuss.
What’s in it? Carrots and/or sweet potatoes with dried or fresh fruit, sugar, and sometimes meat, simmered for a long time. Some recipes also have orange peel and marmalade or apricot jam.
When do you eat it? On Rosh Hashanah, when sweet, orange or gold-colored food and carrots are all considered popular Jewish foods to eat, tzimmes is traditional.
What’s it like? It’s usually very sweet. It should appeal to people who enjoy candied yams or glazed carrots.