First, let’s set the record straight, Cognac is a protected brand. Put simply by Jack Charlton, Brand Ambassador for cognac Rémy Martin, “Cognac is to brandy what Champagne is to sparkling wine.” This explanation makes the distinction easy to understand. Cognac must be produced in the Cognac region of France. On the other hand, brandy may be the same but produced anywhere in the world using different types of grapes/fruits.
Before getting cognac (and brandy), we first need grapes. These grapes are made into white wine, which is twice distilled and then aged in French oak barrels. The distillation process is referred to as eau de vie. Cognac producers must follow strict designation regulations, partly using a particular type of grape. The most popular grape is the ugni blanc.
With close to 200 cognac producers, the most well-known ones are:
It’s worth knowing the difference between cognac and brandy. However, don’t forget the cognac-based liqueurs and the delicious cognac desserts they make.
Delving more into brandy desserts, we do see the cognac-brandy line become hazy. Both work incredibly well combined with chocolates, oranges, and caramels. Some obvious examples of desserts made with either cognac or brandy include truffles, mousse, and even brownies.
Perhaps a rich and creamy Grand Marnier infused crème brûlée? Or really anything with custard!
Moreover, brandy also pairs beautifully with apples. Other brandy desserts include apple brandy sticky toffee pudding, Irish apple crumble cake with brandy sauce, a yummy Brandy Alexander dessert drink, or Brandy hot chocolate! The Brits know a thing or two about baking with brandy. British Christmas pudding features a moist cake with brandy butter and brandy custard. If you need more convincing, there’s spiced cranberry pudding with brandy cream! We’ve even seen brandy custard-filled doughnuts and brandy salted caramel doughnuts!
Further, on the topic of caramel… Don’t forget brandy caramelized fruits like peaches, apricots, and of course apples. One of our favourites is the French tarte Tatin; a truly perfect example of a brandy dessert if you want to bypass the nightcap… But if you’re saving space for that after-dinner digestif, local Canadian cheese might be the ultimate pairing for you.
According to Cognac Expert, it’s key is “to enjoy younger, less complex Cognacs with a milder cheese.” This balances both the palate and aroma. Moreover, if you have a good VSOP, they recommend: mild blues, bries, mild to medium cheddars, a young Gouda, or a fromage frais/blanc. For those who prefer stronger cheeses, they recommend XO level or higher. Another tip: salty cheese fans can chill their cognac in the freezer beforehand to change mouth-feel and enhance sweet tones.
Lastly, food critic Matt Preston takes cognac appreciation to another level with this recipe for brandy-butter fried Christmas pudding with cheese… After learning more about cognac and brandy, what desserts will you choose? Desserts with brandy? Or cognac desserts? Whichever one you choose, we can help with local bakeries near you. Just don’t get too tipsy!