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The $20 Cocktail -- The Place D'Armes

Torched Dutch Grapes -- The Etymology Of Brandy

We've all heard of brandy.  It's the base spirit of great cocktails such as the Sidecar, and it's a key component in other cocktails such as the Vieux Carre. But what is it?  And why do we call it brandy?

Brandy -- torched Dutch grapes
If my wife's Dutch decorative wood shoe fits, don't burn it.

Brandy is basically distilled wine that usually is aged in oak barrels.  The aging process is similar to bourbon (click here for a synopsis of how to determine a French brandy's age).

In the 17th century the Dutch word for burning or distilling was "branden" and the word for wine was "wijn."  So what was the Dutch word for "burned wine?"  "Brandewijn." And how would you say that in English? Brandywine. 

You've heard of Cognac.  Cognac is to brandy as Champagne is to sparking wine -- it denotes a specific geographic area (France in both cases).  As I mentioned in a prior post, all Cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is Cognac.  There are many other good brandies out there.  For example, I recommend Metaxa, which hails from Greece, or pisco, which hails from Peru or Chile.  Regardless of its provenance, brandy can be the beginning of some great experiences.  So get some burned grapes and make wonderful memories. 



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