Category Archives: brandy

Italiana RumChata

rumchata italiana cocktail

RumChata has proven to be a more diverse liqueur than I initially guessed it would be when I first tried it. Sure, it does great with the flavors of coffee, cinnamon, chocolate and rum, but every time I’ve tried to push it into unfamiliar territory, it has held up extremely well.

I approached this cocktail from a Italian perspective, using Italian brandy and an amaro together with RumChata, and as fall approaches, I created another great seasonal RumChata drink: the Italiana RumChata. This can be served up in a cocktail coupe or on the rocks (pictured). Here’s how to make it:

Italiana RumChata (by Greg Mays)

  • In a shaker, add:
  • 1 oz RumChata
  • 1 oz amaro (I used Amaro Montenegro)
  • 1 1/2 oz brandy (I used Vecchia Romagna)
  • 2 dashes bitters
  • shake with ice and strain into a old fashioned glass filled with ice
  • garnish with red grapes

Special thanks to our sponsor RumChata.

Pierre Ferrand Cognac: 1840 Original Formula

Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac

We don’t see many cognacs at Simple Cocktails, probably because like higher-end scotches, cognac is rarely used in a cocktail. Because of some of my cigar pairing work, though, I’ve had the opportunity to taste Pierre Ferrand’s 1840 Original Formula Cognac.

The 1840 Formula is Ferrand’s base cognac, retailing at about $50. The flavor is subtle, sweet and fruity, with notes of pear and caramel – an excellent after-dinner drink. A cigar pairing with the 1840 Formula should be mild so as not to overpower the cognac.

I used Pierre Ferrand to make Sidecars at a cocktail party, and it made for excellent drinks that were very popular. Here’s the recipe I used:


  • in a shaker, add:
  • 2 oz cognac (or brandy)
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz triple sec
  • shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass with half the edge rimmed with sugar
  • garnish with a lemon wedge

Gonzalez Byass Brandies

gonzales byass brandies: soberano and lepanto

Gonzalez Byass is primarily known as a wine family in Spain, though they also own several spirits as part of their portfolio, including Flor de Caña rum. Two of their brandy lines are Soberano and Lepanto.

These two, however, are very different brandies. Soberano 5-year, which is about $30 and distilled in a column still (a pretty new way of distilling), is sweet in the smell and candy-corn-like in the flavor. It has no spice or alcohol burn and would make an excellent Sidecar cocktail.

Lepanto is a 12-year-old brandy, distilled in a copper pot still. The price tag reflects its age ($60) and the flavor is quite different than Soberano, with a stronger and spicier flavor than its younger brother, with burn on the finish and sizzle on your tongue. In a vague way, this brandy reminds me of a very old whiskey-barrel-aged tequila – spice mixed with a freshness from the grapes, slightly sour notes in the nose and a vanilla cream flavor on the finish. For the price, you’d be more likely to sip Lepanto than mix it, but it would make an outstanding, complex cocktail if you decided to shake one up. We initially tasted Lepanto on the Simple Cocktails Podcast.

From what I can tell, the Gonzalez Byass family of brandies are just beginning to be distributed in the United States. If you have a chance to try Soberano or Lepanto, let me know what you think in the comments.



Hennessy Cognac

hennessy ryan mcginness bottle

This is one of the few cognac reviews you’ll find here at Simple Cocktails, but that’s not really intentional. It’s just that cognac can be pricey and is mostly intended for sipping, not cocktail-making. Hennessy is really one of the big names in cognac and has released a limited edition bottle to celebrate 250 years in business, designed by American artist Ryan McGinness.

So what is cognac exactly? Cognac is brandy (distilled from grapes) that is specifically distilled and aged in the Cognac region of France. Like brandy, there are 3 common types of cognac:

  • V.S. – very special. The youngest type of cognac.
  • V.S.O.P. – very special old pale. An older and more expensive cognac.
  • X.O. – extra old. Cognacs in this range usually start at $100, though they can command thousands or tens of thousands of dollars if they’re old or unique enough.

hennessy ryan mcginness bottle

Hennessy has chosen accessibility with this limited edition bottle, it’s the V.S. blend, which retails for the usual $30-40. V.S. is a blend of dozens of cognacs and is aged 8 years. Cognac has long been the preferred accompaniment to a cigar, and this one has the subtle flavor of sweet red wine, and the barrel notes of vanilla and a little bit of caramel. Definitely the right flavor profile for a cigar.

Cognac is not particularly appealing to the younger drinking crowd and I imagine this bottle art is a way of generating interest from them. It glows under a blacklight, a particularly cool effect in a nightclub. The artwork is modern and beautiful too, and if you’re looking to pickup a moderately-priced cognac, there’s not reason not to grab this beautiful bottle with quality cognac inside.

Fall Cocktails on the Morning Brew


Greg appeared on The Morning Brew with Friends in Albuquerque today and made two Fall cocktails: the Sidecar and Scotch Milk Punch. If you saw the segment, welcome! Here are the recipes:


  • 1 1/2 oz brandy
  • 1 oz triple sec
  • 1 oz lemon
  • rim with sugar
  • shake with ice, then strain into a glass
  • lemon wedge garnish

Scotch Milk Punch

  • 2 oz scotch
  • 4 oz milk (the fattier this is, the better the drink will taste)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • shake with ice until extremely cold, then strain into a glass
  • top with whipped cream and nutmeg


Brandy Presidente and the Brandy Crusta Cocktail

brandy presidente

Brandy is one of the 5 base spirits that most cocktails are based on (the others are vodka, gin, whiskey and tequila) For some reason, I don’t have much brandy in my home bar. In fact, I currently have 1 bottle, Presidente, pictured above.

Brandy is the result of distilling wine, though brandy can be made from grapes too, like in Grappa or Pisco, even (almost) Ciroc vodka, though Ciroc’s not aged, so it’s not quite brandy.

The bottle of Presidente I have, a gift from a friend who traveled to Mexico, is the most popular spirit in Mexico. Surprised? Yeah, me too. It’s by no means a complex spirit, and you can get a bottle for around $10 here in the States, which is a great value for a 3-year-old aged spirit. The taste of Presidente is mild (it’s only 35% abv), a little sweet, and pretty pleasant with just a little touch of cheap-liquor-burn. It’s easy to drink straight from a snifter and like I said, you can’t beat the value for a sipper or a cocktail base.

brandy crusta cocktail

The Brandy Crusta is a classic cocktail in every sense. Recipes for the drink appear somewhere near the mid-1800s, and it’s the inspiration for what’s probably the most popular brandy cocktail today, the Sidecar. Try this one out at home:

Brandy Crusta

  • in a cocktail shaker, add:
  • 2 oz brandy
  • 1 tsp triple sec
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 dash bitters
  • shake with ice and strain into a sugar-rimmed cocktail glass
  • garnish with a lemon twist


Don Alberto Cocktail

don alberto cocktail

This is another cocktail that I had to try from Trader Vic’s book. To be honest, outside of the Pisco Sour that I made almost 2 years ago, I never reach for the Pisco in my home bar, so it’s definitely time I dug up another good Pisco recipe.

And this is a good one! It’s pretty sweet with both triple sec and grenadine, so even those who don’t like stronger drinks might want to give this one a shot. Here’s how you make it:

Don Alberto

  • 1 1/2 oz pisco
  • 1 1/2 oz Italian (red) vermouth
  • 3/4 oz triple sec
  • 3/4 oz grenadine (I used Jack Rudy)
  • stir well with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass


rum alexander

In March 1974, John Lennon was out with friends and had a few too many of his favorite cocktail, the Brandy Alexander. Lennon ended up heckling the Smothers Brothers and was thrown out with his friends for fighting, The following day, Lennon sent several bunches of flowers out to those involved with apology notes. The note he sent to actress Pam Grier said:

Dear Pam,

I apologize for being so rude and thank you for not hitting me.

John Lennon

An Alexander is a cocktail that can be easily adapted to your favorite booze, though the Brandy Alexander is the most popular variety. Simply add 1 oz of dark creme de cacao (chocolate liqueur) and 1 oz of cream, finish with an ounce of your favorite booze, shake, and enjoy!


  • 1 oz of your choice: brandy, rum, gin, whiskey, vodka, or tequila
  • 1 oz dark creme de cacao
  • 1 oz cream
  • shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass
  • optional garnish of nutmeg on top


lair's applejack

Brandy is a spirit distilled from fruit and named for either the methods that it’s made by or for the region it’s distilled in. The most common variations of brandy include Cognac, Armagnac, Pisco, Calvados, Grappa, Apple Brandy, and Applejack.

So what’s the difference between Applejack and Apple Brandy? Both are distilled from apple cider, but Apple Brandy is traditionally distilled and aged while Applejack is jacked somehow. In the case of Laird’s Applejack, this means their Apple Brandy is blended with neutral spirits. Others may use freeze distillation to create theirs, but once the Brandy gets jacked, it becomes Applejack.

Laird’s is probably the most common brand of Applejack you’ll see, and it runs around $17 a bottle. Never having Applejack before this (though I have tried Apple Brandy), Laird’s a cool, mellow, naturally sweet, and freshly harvested apple flavor. This is easy to drink neat (straight – no ice) as the low alcohol doesn’t need watering down to enjoy it. I will definitely drink this through the fall with some cranberry bitters, and this simple cocktail is a great fit for Applejack, too:

Applejack Cocktail

  • 1 1/2 oz applejack
  • 1 tsp grenadine
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass

Coffee Cocktail

coffee cocktail recipe

The Coffee Cocktail is a classic recipe, traced back to Jerry Thomas’ 1887 Bartender’s Guide (Amazon link). Thomas’ original recipe appears above, and thankfully, The Cocktail Spirit has translated the old-timey language (“pony,” “goblet,” etc) into modern measurements.

As Jerry Thomas says, the Coffee Cocktail is apparently named after it’s visual appearance, because it contains no coffee. Here it is:

coffee cocktail

Coffee Cocktail

  • 1 1/2 oz port
  • 1 1/2 oz brandy
  • 1 tsp simple syrup
  • 1 whole egg
  • dash of bitters
  • put all ingredients into a shaker and shake without ice to froth the egg
  • add ice to the shaker and shake more to chill
  • pour into a chilled wine or cocktail glass

Special thanks to St. Clair, a local winery who provided me with their excellent Port for this recipe.