The highest quality brandies are referred to as either Cognac or Armagnac, both named for the regions in France where they were first produced. Brandy is popular as a beverage or as an ingredient for numerous dishes ranging from meat entrees, sauces, and desserts. When used in cooked dishes, it doesn't add alcohol content to the food as the heat from the cooking process burns off the alcohol leaving the flavor of the brandy behind.
Brandy comes from the Dutch word 'brandewijn' which means 'burnt' or 'distilled' wine. The finest brandies, distilled from wine, are the French Cognac and Armagnac. They are distilled under very strictly controlled methods and are aged in oak casks which gives them a mellow flavor and a wonderful caramel color. They are labeled: E - extra special, F - fine, M - mellow, O - old, P - pale, S - superior, V - very, and X - extra. So a bottle that is labeled VSOP means 'very superior old pale'. Besides the eau-de-vies, the word 'brandy' includes 'Marc' and the Italian 'Grappa' which are both distilled from the residue of grapes after they have been pressed for wine. They tend to have a harsh and pungent taste. Likewise, an eau-de-vie that is labeled 'eau-de-vie de marc de cider ' is made from the residue of cider after being pressed. Calvados is the world's finest apple brandy and is a French brandy made from the apples of Normandy. Applejack is an American apple brandy. Brandies are used to both flame and flavor food. They are used in desserts, pastries and confections. Cognac is wonderful in flavoring chocolates. (see also eau-de-vie and liqueurs)
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Calvados (Calvados is dry, apple brandy made in Normandy, ...)