BRANDY
A spirit distilled from fruit (usually grapes), brandy is typically aged in wood barrels for additional color and flavor. Historically brandy played a key role in cocktails, but its popularity waned as a spicier brown liquor called whiskey became readily available and less expensive. Now, a century after Prohibition rewrote the rules of mixology, brandy’s rediscovery is underway. The eminently quaffable Sidecar as well as the spirituous Vieux Carré have resurfaced, and substituting brandy into cocktails has become a rite of passage for budding bartenders. Two of the most esteemed types of grape brandy are Cognac (one grape, refined, common) and Armagnac (four grapes, rustic, small scale), originating in their respective regions of France. Spanish grape brandy is robust, with a more complex aging process (the solera method). Pisco, made from grapes indigenous to Chile and Peru, is often unaged and expresses the unique varietals in the finished brandy. Even South Africa has gotten into the mix, adhering to the French tradition of aging. Barrel-aged apple brandy, including the prestigious Calvados from Normandy, offer intriguing twists on the spirit whether enjoyed neat or in a cocktail, while eau-de-vie -- a clear, unaged brandy made from fruit other than grapes -- provides a pure if delicate expression of fermented and distilled fruit.
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