The Mixology Talk Podcast

Episode Five: Brandies, Cognacs & Piscos!

Brandy has become much more common and popular in recent years due to its use in pre-prohibition and classic cocktails.  Today we’re talking about how it’s made and two common brandies you might just run into at your local watering hole.

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Today’s episode is all about Spirits made with Fruit – aka Brandy!

How it’s Made:

  • All Brandy is made with Fruit.  Usually grapes, but it’s also made with apple, peaches, blackberry – you name it!
  • The fruit juice is fermented into wine
  • The wine is then distilled into Brandy
  • Some brandies are also aged, and this is a common distinction between different types

Common Types of Brandy & Shopping for Them:


Can be produced anywhere, and the only real requirement is that it’s made with Fruit.  Pisco & Cognac below are both sub-categories of “Brandy”.

Shopping for Brandy: For mixing, plan to spend about $15 a bottle.  Decent brandy can be very inexpensive and still make a great drink.


Pisco is made from grapes in both Peru and Chile.  The two countries’ styles differ but have a lot in common in the final product.  The most famous cocktail using Pisco is called the Pisco sour – you might be familiar with it.

Shopping for Pisco: Due to its increased popularity in the last ten years, it’s becoming much easier (and more affordable) to find Pisco.  You’ll still spend about $30 a bottle.


Cognac is a special name given to brandies produced in the Cognag region of France.  There are three sub-categories of Cognac that differentiate different ages and quality levels (and therefore price!)

  • VS (Very Special) is the least expensive.  Brandies blended into this product must be a minimum of two years old. It starts around $20 a bottle.
  • VSOP (Very Special Old Pale) is the middle ground but starts to get outside the normal price range for mixing. It starts around $35 a bottle and the youngest spirit in the bottle must have spent at least 4 years in the barrel.
  • XO (Extra Old) is aged the longest (a minimum of 6 years but could be much older) and therefore costs the most. These cognacs are always for sipping and can be extremely expensive – starting around $130 a bottle.

Popular Brandy Cocktails

  • Sidecar (brandy, orange liqueur, lemon juice)
  • Corpse Reviver #1(brandy, apple brandy, sweet vermouth). First written in 1871, WAY before zombie movies were popular.
  • Pisco Sour (Pisco, lime juice, simple syrup)

Today we’re drinking a Vieux Carrre!

This is a classic Cocktail paying homage to the French Quarter in New Orleans.  Not to mention – it’s delicious!


  •  3/4 oz. rye whiskey
  • 3/4 oz. Cognac
  • 3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 1 barspoon Bénédictine
  • 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters


  • Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and stir to chill.
  • Strain into an ice-filled bucket Old Fashioned glass.
  • Garnish with orange or cherry

Thanks for Listening!

We’re nearly done with our series on spirits. Do you have any questions about the liquors we’ve talked about, or how to use them in drinks? Below this box there are two buttons where you can record your audio questions or write your questions in. Both will get to us,and we’ll answer them on a future episode!

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