Brandy: Nutrition Facts, Benefits & Side Effects

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

The interesting health benefits of brandy may include its ability to slow the signs of aging, control weight, reduce respiratory issues, boost heart health, improve sleep patterns, and strengthen the immune system.

What is Brandy?

Brandy is a strong alcoholic spirit made from fermented fruit juice or distilled wine. Brandy is derived from wine, yet it is aged in oak barrels, which increases the alcohol content and also gives it a unique color. This form of liquor has typically 30-60% alcohol by volume, which can pack quite a punch when drunk in excess. [1]

The name comes from the Dutch word ‘brandewijn’ and is made by further distilling wine to increase the alcoholic content. Other common names of brandy are Applejack, Armagnac, and Cognac. It comes in many varieties, based on different fruits. However, it is usually enjoyed as an after-dinner drink and not as something that one drinks all evening, as some may do with wine or beer at a party. [2]

Brandy with ice in a glass placed on a wooden table

A scintillating glass of brandy with ice Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Brandy Nutrition Facts

An ounce of brandy may contain 65 calories, while flavored brandy contains more than 80 calories. Each 1.25 ounce of brandy makes for one drink. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, restricting alcohol intake to one drink per day for women, and two per day for men is ideal. [3]

Nutrition Facts

Brandy
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Energy 231
Alcohol, ethyl [g]33.4
Water [g]66.6
Iron, Fe [mg]0.04
Phosphorus, P [mg]4
Potassium, K [mg]2
Sodium, Na [mg]1
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.04
Copper, Cu [mg]0.02
Thiamin [mg]0.01
Riboflavin [mg]0
Niacin [mg]0.01
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0
Sources include : USDA [4]

Potential Health Benefits of Brandy

As with any type of alcohol, drinking an excessive amount can also be bad for the heart, so caution should always be taken when monitoring consumption. Brandy in moderation should be enjoyed as an experience rather than a health tonic. Let’s take a closer look at the important health benefits of brandy when consumed in moderation:

May Help Relieve Respiratory Issues

Traditionally, brandy, because of its anti-inflammatory properties, may have been used as an effective means to relieve respiratory issues, such as a cough or a sore throat. The strong alcoholic content, typically ranging from 35% to 60%, can prove to be helpful in eliminating bacteria and loosening up phlegm and mucus, thereby acting as an expectorant. [5]

A comparative study published by the British Journal of the Diseases of the Chest [6] also suggests that intake of brandy instead of beer, wine, or whiskey can also help improve the symptoms of asthma.

Might Boost Immune System

Brandy, a cherished liquor for centuries, is renowned for its potential to enhance the immune system. With its natural warming and antibacterial properties, it has been a trusted remedy for common colds, coughs, and the flu. 

In moderation, alcohol consumption is associated with reduced common cold occurrences, improved antibody responses, and enhanced vaccine effectiveness. Brandy, specifically, with its antibacterial attributes, ability to alleviate respiratory discomfort, and even provide relief for sore throats and muscle aches, is a popular choice for managing minor respiratory issues.

However, it’s crucial to note that excessive alcohol consumption is linked to immune-related health problems, including an increased risk of pneumonia. This excessive intake disrupts immune pathways, impairs the body’s defense against infections, contributes to organ damage, and hinders tissue recovery. [7]

May Help Sleep Better

A nightcap to aid a good night’s sleep every once in a while is considered traditional in many cultures and many parts of the world. While for some a small volume of whiskey could do the job, brandy for sleep is also considered a favorable option. While there is no doubt that brandy can knock you out quickly, remember it is not a solution.

According to the National Sleep Foundation [8], alcohol does have a sedative effect on the body and can put you into a deep sleep state quickly. However, it does no favors when it comes to the second half and can wake you up before you can complete proper sleep. While there is no harm with an occasional nightcap (a very small amount), know that alcohol is not a solution for sleep disorders.

Can Aid In Improving Heart Health

Brandy exhibits notable antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which may have a beneficial effect on heart health.

Antioxidants protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, which can contribute to the development of heart disease. Anti-inflammatory compounds help to reduce inflammation, which also plays a role in the development of heart disease.

Brandy contains polyphenols, which are plant-based compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. A 2009 study in the journal, Food Chemistry found that brandy has a higher antioxidant capacity than other alcoholic beverages, such as wine and beer. [9]

Moderate consumption of brandy may help to protect the heart by:

  • Reducing the risk of cell damage caused by free radicals
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Improving blood flow
  • Reducing cholesterol levels

However, it is important to note that brandy is still an alcoholic beverage, and consuming too much alcohol can have negative health consequences. It is important to talk to your doctor before drinking brandy for its potential heart health benefits.

Might Have Anti-aging Properties

The antioxidant compounds found in brandy may help prevent certain types of aging symptoms, including wrinkles on the skin, cognitive issues, poor vision, and other chronic conditions that occur as we age. These compounds are attributed to the presence of copper in the aging barrels, which can have a strong effect on the body. Antioxidants help prevent cellular death in the skin, hair, brain, and internal organs, due to dangerous free radicals.

According to Dr. Gordon Troup and his team from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, a shot of brandy may consist of the same antioxidant potential as 90 mg of vitamin C, which is known for its anti-aging properties. These health benefits are said to be derived from the copper used during distillation, which only gets enhanced with the quality of the brandy. [10]

May Contain Zero Carbohydrates

Unlike carbohydrate-heavy alcoholic drinks like beer, brandy may contain no carbs at all and doesn’t fill you up. It can also be enjoyed as an aperitif, without ruining your appetite. Moreover, it may also not contribute to the simple sugar breakdown of carbs that can easily be stored as fat, such as those found in beer. [11]

Side Effects of Brandy

As mentioned earlier, alcohol of any kind should only be consumed in moderation. Alcoholism and binge drinking is detrimental to your overall health and can undo any possible good things that moderate amounts can impart. Excess intake or addiction can cause various side effects as follows:

Always consume brandy in moderation, but consult your doctor before adding it to your regular diet, especially if you have experienced liver problems in the past, or if you have a history of addictive behavior.

Note: Minors, pregnant women, and lactating mothers should not consume alcohol. [14]

Culinary Uses

You can consume brandy neat or on the rocks. However, it can be used in various ways including cooking, as follows:

  • Cocktails: Brandy can be used to make many cocktails such as hot toddy tea, metropolitan, sidecar, chrysanthemum, and more.
  • Flambéed: It is used in various flambéed dessert recipes like flambéed apples, flambéed pears.
  • Flavoring: Brandy is used in enhancing the flavor of various baked recipes like cakes and pie fillings.
  • Deglazing: It is a common deglazing liquid used in making pan sauces for meats.

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. [15]

How to Drink Brandy?

Brandy can be consumed in any manner you see fit, but the popular way is to:

  • Pour it neat (without ice) into a snifter, which is held in the hand, so the glass can be warmed.
  • Let the aroma of the brandy release as this makes for a more enjoyable drink.
  • It is a beverage that should be sipped, starting with small sips that gradually grow larger.
  • Try to inhale the aroma as you drink it.

Is Brandy Whiskey?

Brandy is not a type of whiskey but many people may mistake it for whiskey, due to the similar burning sensation of drinking it. It is primarily made from wine and fermented fruit juices, whereas whiskey is a spirit made from types of grains, such as wheat, corn, or malted barley.

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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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