First things first, what is cognac? Cognac is a wine grape brandy that is exclusively made in the Cognac region of France. There are very strict regulations regarding the production of brandy, and all manufacturers use a specific type of grapes.
Once cognac is made into brandy, manufacturers age it in oak barrels for at least two years. Those that are aged for longer usually have a richer flavor compared to those aged for only two years. I would describe the flavor of cognac as spicy and robust with notes of citrus and leather. Different brands may slightly vary in taste, but they will all give you a velvety mouthfeel.
Each bottle of cognac contains an alcohol content of at least 40% and most brands tend to be expensive. Cognac appeals to many as an alcoholic beverage. However, that is not the only thing it is good is. It can be added to a wide range of sweet and savory dishes.
You may need to substitute cognac with something else for various reasons. Maybe you don’t want to spend too much on cognac but need it for a recipe or you don’t have any in your liquor cabinet Your best option would be to use a substitute.
Luckily, there are several substitutes you can use in place of cognac that will give you similar results. Brandy, sherry, Armagnac, scotch whiskey, wine, brandy extract, and fruit juices are some of the suitable cognac substitutes.
Let’s discuss them in detail without wasting any more time.
Brandy is cognac are closely related, just the same way sparkling wine and champagne are. The two are pretty much the same thing, the only difference is that one has a richer taste and is more expensive as a result of the strict regulations guarding its production.
Those who have a well-trained palate can tell the difference between cognac and brandy, but to most people, it tastes the same.
You can use brandy as a cognac substitute in cocktails, desserts, and sauces too. I doubt anyone would be able to tell the difference. Just be sure not to choose brandy that is flavored, this includes apple brandy and peach brandy. Their flavor may not be ideal for your recipes.
I also highly recommend using brandy for flambéing and deglazing. However, it is important to ensure that the bottle of brandy you are using is 80-proof alcohol.
Most brandies can be used as a cognac substitute in cooking. Just make sure that you like the taste first. Chances are that if you don’t like how it tastes when you drink it you won’t like how your food will turn out either.
Sherry is another ideal cognac substitute. It is a fortified wine that originated from Spain. Sherry has a nutty and dried fruit flavor.
Dry sherry would mimic the flavor of cognac better compared to sweet sherry, especially those labeled ‘cream sherry’.
I highly recommend using sherry in beef stroganoff or coq au vin. With the slow cooking, the alcohol cooks off and leaves behind an amazing sherry flavor.
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If you are looking to replace cognac as a digestif, Armagnac is your best bet. Armagnac is a type of brandy that is manufactured in the Southwest of France.
Compared to cognac, it has a low alcohol content. It also has a more complex flavor, and I personally find it drier than cognac.
If you want to experience a robust flavor, drink Armagnac. It is a top-shelf beverage that never disappoints.
Scotch whiskey is an ideal substitute if you are looking for a nice bottle of spirit to drink. Buy the good quality ones if you want to get the best out of them.
You can also use scotch whiskey if you don’t fancy the taste of cognac or want something that tastes a little bit different.
Scotch whiskey can be used as a cognac substitute in cooking too, but I suggest using cheaper alternatives that will give you similar results.
If you are making gravies or sauces, wine would be an ideal cognac substitute. A bottle of Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc would work perfectly in these recipes. You don’t have to buy the expensive bottles, cheap ones will work just fine.
Don’t use chardonnays because they tend to become bitter when used in cooking. Additionally, stay away from bold wines like Shiraz because they will alter the flavor of your dish.
Use a medium to full-bodied wine that is not too sweet for the best results.
Brandy extract is the ideal option if you want a non-alcoholic substitute. You can use brandy extract in desserts, mocktails, and other baking recipes that call for cognac.
For every tablespoon of cognac that your recipe calls for, use one tablespoon of brandy extract.
If you use this substitute in baking, you may have to also add a little bit more liquid to your recipe for it to turn out okay.
Fruit juices can also be used in place of cognac. Peach juice, apple juice, apricot juice, and pear juice are great options. Just use the same amount you would have used if you were using cognac.
Don’t use juices that have extra sugar added because your dish will end up being too sweet for your liking.
In case you are making a sauce, I suggest adding a little bit of water to balance out the sweetness.
Interesting facts about cognac
- The flavor profile of cognac is quite complex. It has spicy, citrusy, and fruity notes. You may also notice other flavors similar to vanilla, cinnamon, dried apricots, or vine flowers.
- Oak barrels are very essential in the production of cognac. As the cognac ages, the barrels influence their flavor.
- If cognac is aged for a long time, it develops other flavors including chocolate, toffee, and leather.
This French brandy is not easy on the pocket. I personally haven’t come across a cheap bottle of cognac. It probably wouldn’t make sense to buy a whole bottle of cognac when you only need a splash of it for your recipe when you can use a substitute that is not as expensive.
Brandy, sherry, Armagnac, scotch whiskey, and wine are ideal substitutes. If you want a non-alcoholic option, you can always use fruit juices or brandy extract in its place.
These substitutes may not give you the exact results that cognac does, but they work just fine. Your dish will still taste amazing, and in some cases, you may end up preferring the substitute over cognac itself.
Try these substitutes the next time your recipe calls for cognac and let me know how your dish turns out.