The Brandy Cocktail

Brandy cocktail with lemon peel

The Spruce / Claire Cohen

Prep: 3 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 3 mins
Serving: 1 serving
Yield: 1 cocktail

This brandy cocktail recipe is just one variation of the classic drink. It's incredibly easy to mix up, makes a great dinner drink, and is a fantastic way to show off a nice brandy. You can even use cognac, Armagnac, or any high-end brandy without worrying about damaging the spirit's quality. In fact, you will only be enhancing it with a few simple ingredients.

The formula found in this drink is the original definition of a cocktail: distilled spirit, sugar, water, and bitters. In this recipe, the curaçao liqueur acts as the sugar and the dilution from shaking it with ice is the water. There are even two types of bitters in this drink, which give the flavor a nice accent.

Technically, back in the late 1800s when this drink was a big hit, this recipe would be called a "fancy brandy cocktail" because it calls for a lemon peel. Bartenders of the day would have skipped the garnish if you simply ordered a "brandy cocktail."


  • 2 ounces brandy
  • 1/2 ounce orange curaçao liqueur
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
  • Garnish: lemon peel

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, pour the brandy, curaçao, and bitters.

  3. Shake well.

  4. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

  5. Garnish with a lemon peel.

  6. Serve and enjoy.

How Do You Properly Drink Brandy?

If for some reason you'd like to try this beverage neat, here are some good guidelines.

  • Drink brandy at room temperature in a snifter.
  • Don't dilute it with water or ice; it destroys the flavor.
  • Sniff the brandy, put your hands around the glass to warm it gently, and take small sips.


  • If you pour a quality brandy, make sure your choice in orange curaçao follows suit. This is not a place to save money, because many of the least expensive brands are too sweet and will bring down the taste of this fine cocktail.
  • Ensure you pick up "orange" curaçao (which is actually clear) instead of the very popular blue option or the rare green.
  • Triple sec and brandy-based orange liqueurs (such as Grand Marnier) can be a substitute for curaçao. However, the same recommendation applies to the quality of the liqueur you pour. A better cocktail is made of quality ingredients all the way around, and it's even more important in a drink that's this simple.

Recipe Variations

  • In the early days of cocktails, you would order a basic "'cocktail" by calling the base spirit, and it would be made similar to this. For instance, drinkers would have ordered a gin cocktail or a whiskey cocktail, or almost any liquor of choice.
  • Angostura is a staple in most bars, but Peychaud's is not. It is worth picking up a bottle because it's essential as the bitters for famous classic drinks such as the Sazerac. However, if you don't have it, try another type. There's no true substitute, but this drink would be excellent with orange bitters or old-fashioned replicas like The Bitter Truth's Creole Bitters or Jerry Thomas' Own Decanter Bitters.

How Strong Is a Brandy Cocktail?

Many of the best old-fashioned drinks are not weak drinks. In fact, they tend to be higher in alcohol than many modern cocktail recipes because they rarely use nonalcoholic mixers. The brandy cocktail is no exception, and it averages out to around 30 percent ABV (60 proof). That's right in line with the martini and Manhattan and slightly under the bottling proof of the average brandy. Take it easy and savor each sip.