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cognac for cooking!

  • q

anybody have a recommendation for a good cognac suitable for cooking? e.g., within reason, costwise. also, it should be something readily available as i am planning on picking it up at the airport duty-free store.

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  1. I have a friend who purchases the "airline sized bottles" of liquor for cooking.

    1. As a former cognac drinker I used to get mad at the wife for using my best cognac in her cooking until I tasted the food. Believe it or not the better the cognac the better the food.

      2 Replies
      1. re: yimster

        Absolutely, if it is not drinking quality then it is not cooking quality.

        1. re: Candy

          it makes perfect sense though. plus, you have something good to keep you occupied while slaving in the kitchen...

      2. I guess I disagree to some degree...

        Cognac is brandy from a specific region of France. And just as there are many great sparkling wines that are not Champagne (or bleu cheese not Rocquefort) because they don't come from grapes grown in that area, there are many nice brandies that are not Cognac, not made in France, not even made in Europe.

        But if you want to pay for a label, buy the least expensive you have heard of. My experience with Duty Free is that it is low on selection. And what they have will be high end. As in best for sipping, not cooking. And maybe one low-end for someone who wants the 'cognac' label but wants a cheap one.

        1 Reply
        1. re: SteveT

          right you are Steve. I like Spanish brandy and find a good one is a better bang for the buck than French cognac. I not talking cheap jug brandy.

        2. I'd like to reopen the discussion on this topic. I have come across a beef bourguignon and also a shrimp bisque recipe that call for cognac.

          What should I go into my liquor store and buy?

          6 Replies
          1. re: NYChristopher

            i'd look for other recipes, lol. beef bourgogne is usually made with red wine, and i prefer sherry in bisques.

            ok, seriously...

            go to your local wine store and ask them lower end cognacs are often colored with carmel and kind of sticky sweet. you'd get a better value (for cooking) with a better brandy.

            1. re: hotoynoodle

              The other thing you can do, depending on how much you need, is get those miniature bottles - if you think you won't have other uses for the cognac. That's what I do when I make chicken liver mousse.

              1. re: MMRuth

                that's a quantity issue, not quality. julia always said if you won't drink it, don't cook with it.

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  True - but I guess I don't mind springing for a couple of dollars for a mini, rather than spending alot on a larger size, or less on a eh bottle (not that you were suggesting that latter).

                  It was just a suggestion!

                2. re: MMRuth

                  Frankly, I like cognac ... I just don't know much about it. If I had my druthers, I would keep a bottle of Delamain XO in the apartment, but I'm not cooking with a $60 bottle of cognac, at least not until I make some more money.

                  Anyway, my point is I'd like enough to cook with and then some, but I don't want to break the bank.

                3. re: hotoynoodle

                  Well, I'm making Ina G's shrimp bisque this evening and got sherry for it, but also some cognac (I almost always attempt the recipe as is the first time ... too much of an amateur to do it any other way ... then I finesse it myself).

                  Oh, so which Cognac? See my reply to WAWAJB below.

              2. I'm not sure what the OP (or re-OP as the case may be) is looking for...but I know I could actually use some advice on what would be a good 'bargain bottle' of cognac or brandy. I don't drink it, so I don't know anything about what brands are decent and what is swill...and as with anything else, there has to be a brand or two that is not as good as the price and a brand or two that is much better than the price. Does anybody have specific suggestions on which to look for and which to avoid? Although...on second thought perhaps this is a question better asked of one of the alchohol related boards. Worth a try anyway.

                2 Replies
                1. re: wawajb

                  Here's a primer.

                  As I know it,
                  VS is Very Special
                  VSOP is Very Special Old & Pale
                  XO is eXtra Old

                  And it's all a question of how long it ages.

                  As for a bargain, no, Delamain XO isn't (not at $60/btl) but it's what I like.

                  I ended up getting a 375ml bottle of Pierre Ferrand amber for about $17 (figure $35 for a full bottle). I believe it to be the entry level spirit of a small- to mid-size producer. Perhaps a little thin, resembles an eau de vie to a certain extent. Fair value for the money, I certainly I won't mind cooking with this.


                  1. re: wawajb

                    Any of the major VSs, Remy-Martin, Martell, Courvesier, Hennessy, are suitable for cooking. Better yet, try the VSOPs, which are drinkable, if not impressive, yet a good intro to cognac. Personally, I like the VSOP Pierre Ferrand for cooking, as I can also sip this while I cook. Since I'm not rich, the Remy-Martin 1796 is what I look forward to with a good cigar.

                  2. I use Hennesey. It has served me well. I got a 750 ml bottle for $35.00, I think you can find it cheaper elsewhere.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Becca Porter

                      Having never actually had Hennesey (hard to believe, I know) I wasn't sure if it was acceptable for cooking and such. Thanks for the tip, Becca.

                      1. re: NYChristopher

                        NYChristopher, I understand the problem - I solved it a different way, I cook with XO and drink Delamain vesper! I guess deep down I have a problem with having an open bottle of 'not drinkable quality' cognac in the house as I simply wouldn't use it rapidly enough by cooking with it only. That being said, Hennessey, Hine or Remy Martin would all do, just aren't in the house.
                        PS XO and Vesper are excellent in icecream.

                        1. re: ali patts

                          Interestingly enough, my sister (a vesper fan) and I ordered one each of the XO and vesper one night ... and agreed the vesper didn't warrant the price increase (Better? Yes. That much better? No.)

                    2. The well-known brand names you would find in the airport duty-free include Hennessey and Remy Martin. You might not see Delamain or Pierre Ferrand.

                      I would recommend getting a bottle of VSOP, which is aged longer and will be appreciably more delicious than VS, but not as expensive as the XO ($80+). If you decide to go to a liquor store with a wide inventory instead, sometimes there are 10 oz (?) hip flask size bottles of the VS behind the cashier.

                      Once you have a bottle on hand, there are lots of uses for cognac - for de-glazing, for cookie dough, pumpkie pie filling, into poultry stuffing with sausage & herbs, for plumping dried cranberry or dried cherries, and into beef stews along with red wine, and for setting roasted bananas a la mode on fire (very exciting with the lights off!). My aunt used to make her own vanilla extract by putting a whole bean into a little bottle of good cognac and letting it sit for months.

                      1. If I (were to) use cognac, it is usually to flambe (three nights ago it was sliced german sausage and herbs). Instead, I use a good quality rum and have never had anyone be less than fully satisfied.

                        1. I buy Chalfonte cognac for cooking. It should be very inexpensive, like $15 at a discount store. It doesn't quite pack enough oopmh for dinking, IMO, but the flavor works well in food and it's excellent for flambee dishes.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: bibi rose

                            Thanks for the tip, especially as it's definitely in my price range (I've seen it priced online at $19-$25).

                          2. I'd like to try to re-revive this topic because it seems like there's some important information missing just yet.

                            Steve T pointed out (below) that:
                            "just as there are many great sparkling wines that are not Champagne because they don't come from grapes grown in that area, there are many nice brandies that are not Cognac, not made in France, not even made in Europe."

                            So I'm thinking that if I want to get the flavor of cooking with decent cognac, the solution is not to buy a cheap un-aged cognac, but to buy a decent brandy that costs less (because it's not French cognac) but has higher quality.

                            Yes? No? Any suggestions?

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: GDSwamp

                              For inexpensive cooking brandy, I would recommend Christian Brothers or Paul Masson. These are especially useful in desserts because they tend to be sweeter than more expensive brandies/cognacs, due to the higher quantity of carmel added for color. If you want to go more upscale, but still be on the inexpensive side, solely for cooking, look for the cheapest French Napoleon or XO that the liquor store has.

                              The Christian Brothers and Paul Masson ought to run you about $12, the cheap French B "Napoleon" (where do they get that from, by the way?) ought to run about $15 to $18.

                              Places like BJ's or, I presume, Sam's Club, Costco, etc. will sell you a bottle of Hennessy VS, Martell VS, Courvoisier VS, etc. for $25 to $28, but at that price level, we are getting to the point where I cringe to add this good stuff to a recipe.

                              Incidentally, my cognac of choice is Martell VS. I generally prefer the VS level cognacs to the VSOP's because the VSOP's have been aged to the point that, while they are admittedly smoother, the cognac flavor has been toned down to the point that they seem slightly watered down to me.

                              1. re: gfr1111

                                Thanks! That's helpful. I'm headed to the liquor store...

                            2. My two cents. If you're going to be flaming, simmering or otherwise cooking the hell out of your cognac - use a decent but not expensive brandy instead. The subtlety of a pricey brand will almost certainly be utterly lost in the process.

                              If you're using the cognac in a dessert or sauce that will be served without cooking or with just minimal heating, use a good (but not ridiculously expensive) brand of cognac. You will taste the difference here.

                              Sometime within the last year or two, there was an article in the NY Times about the use of not-so-delicious wine in cooking and the fact that you really couldn't taste the difference between cheap plonk and vintage Bordeaux when used in a stew or braised dish. I tend to agree with this. You need only to try to match the body type of the wine - heavy or light - and use something economical.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Nyleve

                                Agreed. However, as a total know-nothing in regards to brandy, I wouldn't know the difference between a decent-but-affordable brandy and a crappy-but-overpriced brandy.

                                1. re: GDSwamp

                                  Ask at the store. Don't buy the cheapest thing on the shelf, but don't go crazy either.

                              2. I was watching alton brown tonight and he said anything labeled VO.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: redhot1n

                                  i think you mean labeled "vs" -- vo is rarely seen.

                                2. As a classically trained Master Chef (In France) I use Hennesy Cognac XO ($150.00 750ml) for my cooking needs. It is absurd to use any Cognac costing more than that for cooking as it is intended to be drank straight up or over ice because of it premium quality. For drinking I always have a botlle of Hennesy Richard ($3000.00 750ml) and a couple of Brandy sniffers handy.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: jbrydges

                                    Chef can you really tell a big difference between a VS, VSOP and XO in the final dish? I'd keep the XO and a couple of glasses for drinking. The Hennesy Richard, over the top man

                                  2. Salignac VS - $22 / 750cc in Maryland, smooth baby!

                                      1. re: wanders

                                        I got my swim trunks and my flippie floppies.

                                      2. I usually like Hennessy VSOP for both drinking and cooking for about $30 a bottle (750ml), but today I bought the E & J XO for $10 a bottle (750ml), and it was quite excellent. I think I will buy a few more bottles to have around. My husband liked the E & J XO lot, especially at $10 a bottle (at Costco), but I still prefer the Hennessy VSOP.