Brandy is an intimidating thing. It’s what my father’s friends drank after business dinners. They’d get the fancy little glasses down from my mom’s fancy glass cabinet, loosen their ties and talk about important things like sales projections and stock dividends. I haven’t thought much about brandy in recent years because I drink a good bit of bourbon and rye and beer and there are only so many hours in a single day. But brandy, this very adult spirit that has an old-world charm, is having a moment.
Brandy is fortified wine, like port, only not as syrupy and a hell of a lot boozier. It’s made all over the world, and gets its name from the Dutch (“brandewijn” means “burnt wine”). The most recognizable kind of brandy is Cognac (talk about fancy and intimidating), but American craft distilleries all over the country are getting into the market. Copper and Kings, out of Louisville, Kentucky, is leading the way with a handful of different varieties, from an unaged brandy called “Immature” to a limited release brandy finished in tequila barrels.
They sent me an unaged Apple Brandy and an aged version of the same spirit called Floodwall. Both are 100 proof, so this isn’t aperitif territory; this is liquor. I’m pretty sure brandy was the first booze I snuck from my dad’s liquor cabinet, because when I take a sip of the unaged Apple Brandy from Copper and Kings, it tastes like I’m 10 years old and about to be in trouble. The aged Apple Brandy, which has been socked away in used bourbon and sherry casks, is much more palatable, smelling like cherries and leather and bringing a lot of the bourbon elements into the sip. It’s good, and there are plenty of people who will want to drink Floodwall neat, but I still think this is a spirit for cocktails.
If you’re into the classics, you can go with the Metropolitan (kind of a brandy version of the Manhattan) or the Sidecar (orange liqueur!). But my wife has been wearing a down coat for the last six days straight, which means it’s officially hot toddy season. The hot toddy is a simple cocktail that’s easy to adjust depending on your preferences. The basics are hot water, lemon, a sweetener and some sort of brown liquor. Bourbon or rum (or both) are great, but let’s be mature and get some brandy in there. Get out your cardigan sweater and smoking pipe. It’s time to drink like an adult.
The Hot Toddy
2 oz. Copper and Kings Floodwall Apple Brandy
8 oz. Hot water
1 tbs. Honey
1 tbs. Lemon juice
1 bag tea
Directions: Steep the bag of tea (something mellow and earthy) in the hot water for a couple of minutes. Remove the bag, then add lemon, honey and brandy and stir until the honey has dissolved. Add a wheel of lemon and begin talking about your 401K and bullish markets.