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Hot mulled cider has been a fall/winter staple for Chelsea and me since our first year at McGill.  While we were living in university residence, Chelsea’s mom used to send her care packs nearly twice a month. One of the care packs in November had a box of RW Knudsen “mulling spices” in little single serving tea bags. So simple. So yummy and homey. All we had to do was heat up some apple juice and steep the tea bag for bit and we had hot mulled cider to go with our homework.

In second year, the cold weather started and we started making cider again and it didn’t take long for us to use up all of our mulling spice tea bags! Chels said her mum could send us some more, but I wasn’t willing to wait for that. I looked at the ingredients of the Knudsen spice bags, and then began looking into recipes for mulled cider. The result: A very rough, thrown-together recipe for hot mulled cider. It never comes out exactly the same. It is always delicious and delivers the same warm, happy holiday feelings that I want from my cider.

Hot Mulled Cider, roughly, thrown-together, always good:

2 litres of apple juice (eye ball half of the 4 litre jug if you go through as much cider as we do)
Not the super sweet sunripe kind, but the kind that has some sediment, is probably organic, and maybe not pasteurized. It has a more rich apply flavour. It’s less like candy, and more like juice.

A 1 inch hunk of fresh ginger
Sliced very thin, or grated even. The idea to maximize the surface area and get that ginger juice in there.

A navel orange
Again, sliced thin, and put in the pot with the juice and ginger

2 cinnamon sticks

Some cloves
To taste! I like my cider really clovey and put at least 10 whole cloves. Some people don’t really like cloves. It’s a personal preference thing.

A few dried bay leaves
Broken up and put in the pot.

And brandy!
I put a shot of brandy in my mug before filling it up with cider. I got mixed reviews on how strong the cider was at last year’s Christmas party, so of course this is another “to taste” item.

I think that’s it. Put everything, minus the brandy, in a big pot and heat it up just to a simmer, but don’t boil it. Take it off heat and serve with some brandy. You can garnish the glass with a cinnamon stick and an orange. In my experience, it just gets taken out, but it does look nice!


If you like mulled cider and you like red wine, I strongly suggest you make mulled wine. It’s basically the same stuff, but with some cranberry juice and maybe a little sugar.

What I have learned about these hot holiday drinks is that they are always tasty, but rarely a precise recipe. Experiment and find your personal favourite way of doing things!

Happy Cider Season!



Okay, I admit it.  It’s actually National Jelly-Filled Doughnut Day.  But wouldn’t you rather talk about Cognac?  I sure as heck would.

As we draw into the twilight of this year of the 365 Foods list, we find ourselves thinking outside the list more and more often.  In this case, I’m still “in” the list; I’ve just chosen to re-create June 4 (whence we celebrated cheese).

Cognac is interesting.  I’m sure Cognac drinkers the world over will shun me for saying this, but Cognac is sort of the “Scotch” of wine (ok, Scotch drinkers are now cursing me too).  But here’s the deal.  Cognac is produced by fermenting a weak, crappy wine out of one of, or a blend of only 5 grapes (see L’encopédie du Cognac) and then twice distilling it to take care of impurities before aging it for a minumum of two and a half to many dozen years (in wooden casks, btw) to create a warm, apricot-y, vanilla-y, smooth liqueur that makes lots of otherwise rational folks quite excited about minute differences in flavour.  Kind of like Scotch drinkers (strike me down).

Cognac is technically brandy, but it can only be produced in a discrete area of France. That area is itself divided up into smaller areas, with the “Grande-Champagne” being the “heart” of the cognac region (i.e. the best), and the “Bons Bois” and “Bois Ordinaires” being the “Surrey” of cognac regions (i.e. the “not very best”).

In any event, if you really want to learn about Cognac you should check out these two sites: and, or you should really travel to the Cognac region in France. Or just buy a really good Cognac and taste it, which is what I did.

I bought St-Rémy Authentic XO.  The “XO” means “really good” or actually “eXtra Old” if you must be precise.  Did I mention? Cognac is rated as follows (stolen completely from Wiki):

  • VS Very Special, or ✯✯✯ (three stars) where the youngest brandy is stored at least two years in cask.
  • VSOP Very Superior Old Pale, where the youngest brandy is stored at least four years in a cask, but the average wood age is much older.
  • XO Extra Old, where the youngest brandy is stored at least six, but average upwards of 20 years.
  • Napoleon Although the BNIC (Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac) states this grade is equal to XO in terms of minimum age, it is generally marketed in-between VSOP and XO in the product range offered by the producers.
  • Extra A minimum of 6 years of age, this grade is usually older than a Napoleon or an XO.
  • Vieux Is another grade between the official grades of VSOP and XO.
  • Vieille Réserve Is like the Hors d´Âge a grade beyond XO.
  • Hors d’âge The BNIC states that also this grade is equal to XO, but in practice the term is used by producers to market a high quality product beyond the official age scale. Hence the name “Hors d’âge” (beyond age).

Tonight was the very first night of summer patio season (thank g-d).We had a simple dinner: grilled sausages; corn on the cob; grilled peppers and green onions.  It was fabulous. The Cognac warmed our bellies, but in the end, I think it was an après-dinner drink.  It would have been good with a cigar, if I smoked them. I got the apricot, vanilla and fruitiness.  Jim got the sugar and couldn’t wait to move on.  In the end, though, he decided he liked it.  Jim felt it was more like port than like scotch.  In the end, it was probably just like cognac. Go figure.

the bottle and the fern


Just as an aside, St-Rémy has been producing Cognac for upwards of 300 years.  Just ask them.

xx E

P.S. My very favourite cognac in the entire world is Grand Marnier. Itself a bastardization.  In case you were wondering.

A Brandy Alexander is a drink.  A “foofie martini”, if you will.  To make a Brandy Alexander, you fill a martini shaker ½ full with ice, then pour in 1½ ounces brandy, 1 ounce dark crème de cacao and 1 ounce half-and-half cream.  Then you shake the shit out of it and top it with some nutmeg.

Jim made me a Brandy Alexander while I did the prep for Lauren’s Cashew Chicken (it’s really, really good and as quick to prepare as Lauren says it is; I added 2 diced bell peppers and some diced sweet onion at the end to bulk it up a bit).

Lauren's Cashew Chicken (with peppers & onions)

I just happened to have some whole nutmeg on hand, so I pulled out my rasp and blessed my foofie-tini with some freshly grated nutmeg. And the result was… DELICIOUS!  I must admit to being completely surprised.  I thought it would taste, well, gak.  I’m not a huge fan of crème de cacao, light or dark.  Since my liquor store doesn’t sell crème de cacao in micky size (who drinks this stuff?), I am now the proud owner of a GIANT bottle of dark crème de cacao (less one ounce).  Any suggestions, folks?  Glazed chicken, maybe?

Okay, back to my BA.  Very, very good.  In fact, the crème de cacao might get a little help along: I would have one of these again!  It was surprisingly refreshing.  The brandy was the strongest note but it was (also surprisingly) quite light-tasting.

Go ahead.  Give it a try. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Brandy Alexander with freshly grated nutmeg

In case you were curious, some wiki-nerd has collected a number of popular media references to BAs (couldn’t decide: is the plural “Brandy Alexanders” or “Brandies Alexander”?  Discuss).

On other notes, I’m still waiting for my niece or nephew to make his/her grand appearance.  2 days overdue and counting.  Will keep you posted.

xx Eva