By Josh Seaburg
When you think of brandy, what often comes to mind are the amber hues of cognac or its Spanish cousin, brandy de Jerez, or perhaps American apple brandy and its French counterpart, Calvados. Brandy is a catchall term for distilled spirits made from wine or fermented fruit juice, most of which derive their warm tones through the aging process. Outside the aging barrel, however, there is a wide world of unaged brandies, each with its own expressive profile, and many that are crystal clear.
Unaged brandy is split into two distinct types: pomace, made from the leftover skins and residual fermented juices of winemaking, and eau-de-vie, which is made from fresh fruit juice that is fermented and distilled. Apples, pears, plums and cherries are often used, but there is also grape-based eau-de-vie.
Pomace brandy comes from the “waste not, want not” school of production. It is most common in Europe, where viticulture has an incredibly long and rich history. And like most epicurean traditions, different countries have different traditions for imbibing their pomace brandy, from Spanish orujo to French marc. Probably the best known is Italian grappa. Used as a digestif, it is served in a variety of ways with espresso – mixed directly for a café corretto, used as a chaser, or as a part of resentin, where it is poured into an espresso cup after the coffee has been consumed as a rinse.
It’s no surprise that grape brandy closely followed the development of winemaking as it spread across the globe, and South America took especially well to the art, making eau-de-vie in the early 1600s as a local and less-expensive alternative to the imported brandies coming from western Europe. The most famous is pisco, a hotly contested spirit whose production region is bisected by the Peruvian-Chilean border. Both countries claim pisco as their national spirit and make similar versions despite a few differences in production.
Singani, the national spirit of Bolivia, presents a lesser-known addition to the grape brandy category. It has been distilled in Bolivia for centuries, but was only clearly defined and geographically classified in the early 1990s. Singani is only produced from the Muscat of Alexandria grape, and only at more than 5,000 feet above sea level. Distilling at such high altitudes allows for clearer “cuts” in the distillation product, and the result is a vibrant spirit with an intense floral character reminiscent of unaged tequilas.
The South American unaged brandies in particular play fantastically in cocktails and are ripe for experimentation.
|Chilcano / Chufly||Pisco Sour||Café Molto Corretto|
|1 ½ ounces unaged grape brandy|
4 ½ ounces high quality ginger ale
2 ounces unaged grape brandy
1 ounce fresh citrus juice (you can use lemon, lime or
a combination of the two)
¾ ounce simple syrup
1 egg white
|2 ounces unaged grape brandy|
1 1/2 ounces espresso or freshly brewed coffee
3/4 ounce simple syrup
1 orange twist
4 great brandy options to have in your bar.
Josh Seaburg has established several award-winning bar programs and a series of
innovative pop-ups, highlighting elaborate cocktails and food from local chefs.