A Brief History of Brandy

Brandy is an alcoholic drink usually made from fermented and distilled fruit instead of grain, like whiskey. The most commonly used fruit to produce brandy is grapes, but other fruits like apples, peaches, and apricots are also used. The name brandy comes from the Dutch word "brandewijn," which means burned wine. The liquor contains 50% alcohol per volume and is often enjoyed straight or serves as a base for many cocktails.

History of Brandy

Many dates suggested when brandy was distilled for the first time, but the earliest date is 1313, when French distillers produced brandy for medicinal use. It was supposed to be taken to strengthen one’s constitution. Commercial distillation of brandy was started in the 16th century when a Dutch shipmaster attempted to concentrate wine for shipping and intended to add water to the brew once he reached the destination. However, he found that the concentrated drink was very pleasurable to drink and was accepted by the public.

In America, Laird’s America was the first producer of apple brandy called Applejack, producing their first bottles in 1780. A couple of years later, George Washington opened his distillery in 1797. Washington distillers became one of the largest distillers in America.

Importance of Brandy to Wisconsin

Even though brandy is not the most popular drink in most United States, one part of America, called the "brandy belt," loves brandy. The "brandy belt" stretches from Minnesota to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, with Wisconsin considered "the center." Here people love brandy and brandy cocktails. In fact, if brandy is your preferred drink, you are most likely to reside in the Upper Midwest. 

One cannot underestimate the importance of brandy to Wisconsin. People there prefer it to other spirits and use it instead of whiskey in traditional classic cocktails like Old Fashioned, Manhattan, and Martini. They even freeze brandy, making a slush to use in their version of Sangria, calling it the Brandy Slush.

Types of Brandy

Many brandy distillers have developed their unique blend of fruit and method of producing the liquor. These methods are so distinct that they can be divided into specific types of brandy.

Cognac. This is a fine, French brandy produced in the region of Cognac in France. The ugni blanc, folle blanche, and colombard grapes are twice distilled in copper pots and aged in wooden barrels for at least two years. The brandy has a uniquely smooth quality and is renowned worldwide as one of the finest brandy types.

Armagnac. It is also produced in France, but in the south-west, the region of Gascony. Ten specific grape varieties are used to make this rich, flavorful brandy.

American Brandy. Has no regulations as to what grapes or fruit are used in production. Many craft distillers make their products from grapes grown locally, and most of the winemakers in the United States also distill brandy. 

Flavored Brandy. These are made globally by using fruit other than grapes, and often the fruit used is indicated in the name. The most commonly used fruits are apples, apricots, cherries, and peach. Although some countries have used other ingredients like anise-flavored brandy from Greece called "Ouzo."

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