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Consider Brandy As A Substitute For Bourbon In Your Next Bake

brandy bottle with chunks of various chocolate and nuts
brandy bottle with chunks of various chocolate and nuts - Nataliia Mysak/Getty Images

Beyond its uses in cocktails or as a standalone stiff drink, bourbon lends its distinct palate to culinary applications. Whether it's in sticky Chinese bourbon chicken, as part of a glaze, or adding smoky flavor to a dessert like Kentucky bourbon butter cake, the spirit lends a sweet, complex, boozy note. Especially in baking recipes, the bourbon cuts through a dessert's richness and infuses pastry with a distinct flavor.

However, what if you run out of bourbon in your liquor cabinet? What if the bottle you have on hand is far too expensive to be used in a chocolate cake? Or what if you just don't like the taste of bourbon? Fear not, for there is a handy substitute: brandy. While it's not a perfect replacement — bourbon and brandy have many differences — brandy is still a good choice if you need to add some alcohol to a dessert. Both bourbon and brandy are sweet and barrel-aged, with a palate that'll mesh well with baked goods.

Read more: The 27 Best Bourbon Brands, Ranked

With A Similar Flavor, Brandy Is A Great Substitute For Bourbon

slice of pecan pie
slice of pecan pie - Nicolasmccomber/Getty Images

Replacing bourbon with brandy is straightforward. Since both spirits are full-proof, simply substitute one to one. Consider how the flavors of the dessert will mingle with the liquor. Bourbon has a richer, liquor-forward taste, while brandy is fruitier, so it depends on what palate is required in the dish. Consider the types of brandy you can use before committing to one in a recipe. Calvados or applejack brandy are helpful substitutes for the alcohol in bourbon apple pie recipes, while honey-infused rakia might work best in peach pies or browned-butter sweets.


How do some brandy-bourbon substitutions work in practice? In bakes like bourbon pecan pie bars, bourbon works in concert with other flavors, like vanilla, nuts, and sweeteners. Subbing in brandy gives the bars a slightly different character, reducing the smokiness but underlining the buttery crust. The balance is easier to understand in a recipe like Ina Garten's bourbon honey cake, which incorporates fruity elements like orange juice, orange zest, ginger, allspice, and cloves as well as dark, sophisticated flavors like honey and coffee. When it's all mixed together, the bourbon supports the honey and coffee flavors, but replacing it with brandy will bring your fruity flavors to the fore.

Sometimes you might want to think twice before making the switch, though. Some desserts rely more on bourbon's full flavor, like Kentucky bourbon balls. Spiritous and aromatic, this dessert requires bourbon to bind together its nutty, cocoa, and maple flavors. It's fair to say a liquor swap will be far more obvious. That's not to say a brandy rendition won't be tasty, but it'll transform your bourbon-less bourbon balls into a completely new dish.

Read the original article on Tasting Table