Brandy is a spirit produced by distilling wine. Brandy generally contains 35–60% alcohol by volume and is typically taken as an after-dinner drink. Some brandies are aged in wooden casks, some are coloured with caramel colouring to imitate the effect of aging, and some brandies are produced using a combination of both aging and colouring.
The origins of brandy were clearly tied to the development of distillation. While the process was known in classical times, it wasn’t used for significant beverage production until the 15th century.
Initially wine was distilled as a preservation method and as a way to make it easier for merchants to transport. It was discovered that after having been stored in wooden casks, the resulting product had improved over the original distilled spirit. After distillation, the unaged brandy is placed into oak barrels to mature. Usually, brandies with a natural golden or brown colour are aged in oak casks.
Brandy is traditionally served at room temperature from a snifter, a wine glass or a tulip glass. When drunk at room temperature, it is often slightly warmed by holding the glass cupped in the palm or by gentle heating. Excessive heating of brandy may cause the alcohol vapour to become too strong, causing its aroma to become overpowering. Brandy drinkers who like their brandy warmed may ask for the glass to be heated before the brandy is poured.
Brandy may be added to other beverages to make several popular cocktails; these include the Brandy Sour, the Brandy Alexander, the Sidecar, the Brandy Daisy, and the Brandy Old Fashioned.