5 Best Brandy Substitutes

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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If you don’t have any brandy on hand, there are plenty of great brandy substitutes that can be found in your pantry or grocery.

Brandy Substitutes

Brandy substitutes aren’t too difficult to find, considering that there are a number of other liquors with similar flavor profiles. Brandy is a type of alcohol that is distilled from wine. It is fruity, sweet, and viscous with high alcohol content. Fine brandy is usually sipped at room temperature after a meal to aid digestion and give the body and mind a pleasant relaxed feeling. Medium-quality brandy is great for use in cocktails, as well as cooking meat dishes, desserts, and sauces. If you’re ready to get cooking and need a substitute for brandy, however, there is a wide variety of options that you can try, such as whiskey or rum, sherry or wine, apple juice, brandy extract, and broth among others.

Whiskey or Rum

Whether you’re making a cocktail or an adult dessert, whiskey or rum are great alternatives to brandy. Whiskey may taste more of alcohol, and while rum has sweetness, it is not fruity, so either will slightly change the flavor of your creation. Consider a dash of simple syrup or fruit juice to achieve a balanced flavor.

Sherry, Sweet Vermouth or Wine

You can use an equal amount of any of these alcohols in place of brandy. Look for sweeter wines (red or white will both work). These are particularly good when cooking meat and deglazing pans.

A glass of apple juice with apples next to it

Apple juice is a good non-alcoholic substitute for brandy. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Apple Juice 

If you want to avoid alcohol entirely, apple juice, pineapple juice or other juices or nectars will sweeten a recipe. There is no need to dilute the juice if only a few tablespoons are called for, but consider mixing with water for larger quantities. Juice won’t taste quite like brandy, but the flavor can still be complementary.

Brandy Extract, Vanilla Extract, or Raspberry Extract

Pure extracts never expire, so if you have them in your pantry, use it! Always use in a 2:1 extract to water ratio, since the flavors will be much more powerful. Extracts will change the flavor of your dessert, but vanilla extract will compliment just about any ingredient.

Broth or Stock

If the goal is to add moisture and flavor, rich and tasty broth can also be used. Whether caramelizing onions or braising meat or vegetables, the broth will add its own flavor and help thicken up sauces.

Word of Caution: Cooking with alcoholic beverages results in only some loss of alcohol content. Foods baked or simmered in alcohol can retain anywhere from 4 percent to 85 percent of the alcohol, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Nutrient Data lab.
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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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